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Olivier Sarr talks goals, who he models his game after, his impact on UK, and more

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Sarr is ready to do whatever it takes to win a national championship.

Sarr UK Athletics

Today, senior center Olivier Sarr had his first meeting with UK media as he prepares for the upcoming season, his first with the Kentucky Wildcats following his offseason transfer from Wake Forest.

Sarr made it no secret that his goal is to help UK win a national championship, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

“Whatever it takes, sacrifice, whatever the team needs me to sacrifice, and play my role at my best to help that team win and win the national championship.”

Sarr also talked about who he models his game after, which includes the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, and UK legend Anthony Davis, who just won his first NBA championship with the Lakers.

“Currently I really like Anthony Davis. I’m trying to model my game after him. He’s a great defender He can guard one through five and that’s something I try to incorporate in my game, but he’s also a stretch five, one of the best centers in the league and an NBA champion.”

Here is a recap of what Sarr had to say via UK Athletics.

On his emotions during the process …

“Well, you know, it was a tough process. I mean, you had a pandemic in between. It was a tough decision, obviously. I was thinking about going professional and then I talked with Coach (Danny) Manning and changed my mind. I thought about staying one more year at Wake Forest to have a great season. Then we know what happened with coach. Coach got fired pretty late, so it changed my plans and then the Kentucky opportunity came up. It’s something that I couldn’t refuse. I had to make that decision and then to wait with my waiver and all of that it was tough even though Coach Cal helped me a lot, supported me. I mean, everybody in the organization here helped me a lot. They told me to stay positive at all times, and I did it. But, honestly, sometimes it was tough. But it paid (off). Now it’s good. Now it’s official and I’m part of the team and I’m just really happy to be here.”

On people talking about him being an x-factor on the team if he were to become eligible …

“I mean, honestly, it was something that I hear about, but as long as the season didn’t start all I can do is to focus on my work, focus on helping the team as much as possible as I can at practice, getting the guys ready to face whoever we’re going to face every night, be ready for battle, share my experience, and make the team better as a whole. Then we will see the impact at the end of the season.”

On Kentucky’s culture and who has been the biggest challenge in practice …

“I would say the biggest difference (between Wake Forest and Kentucky) I think is the culture here, the mindset. It’s a winning culture. Not knocking on my old school or whatever, it’s just different. Kentucky has a successful history. It’s a great program. It has high expectations, and you can feel that as soon as you step on campus and as soon as you start practices. As far as my teammates and their impact and challenging, I think everybody brings different stuff playing the four and the five. You’ve got guys like Lance Ware who is really aggressive, really physical. He has a high motor. Then you’ve got Isaiah (Jackson) with length and athleticism. Then you’ve got Jacob (Toppin), same thing. I mean, everybody brings something different and we’re all making each other better every day.”

On how he got his name Olivier and if he was named after Laurence Olivier …

“No, not at all. You might have to ask my parents about that, but I don’t think so. Olivier is a common name in France and it’s the name of my godfather. He was someone who had a big impact on my parents when I wasn’t born yet, so they decided to give me his name.”

On the improvements to his game since coming to the United States …

“I think it’s a little bit of everything. Work but also mental work. Obviously, when I came into college, I was only 189 pounds. So, I gained a lot of weight since then since my freshman year. First it was like really putting in the work with my body, getting better in the weight room, understanding my position and also at Wake, Coach Manning is a great coach. I learned so much in playing on the post and being a presence inside. I think it’s also realizing all of my skills and that I can have an impact on the team. Obviously, I grab rebounds all of the time, but having a focus on each possession to know how to make a difference really, that’s what helped me throughout my three years so far.”

On the differences between how Kentucky and Wake Forest are run …

“I would say the emphasis here is on the players being professionals as soon as possible. When you look back at every team, Kentucky guys don’t stay four years most of the times. I would say that’s the biggest difference. It changes everything from a coaching standpoint.”

On his experience of coming overseas and seeing successful international players in the NBA …

“Europe is on the rise, you know. It’s just something different. I think the game is really different even though it’s changing now in Europe. There’s so many (things) that are different. The way you play over there, here it’s really more if you can make a difference individually as soon as you can and you go and take your guy. Over there it’s more set plays and fundamentals and slower pace, finding – not the open shot – but the best shot you can take every possession. It’s a different approach, but I think mixing both really makes a difference and I think that’s why guys now from Europe are making a difference in the league now.”

On what feedback he got back from scouts when he was considering the NBA Draft and what he wants to work on this season …

“Since I didn’t declare for the draft, I didn’t have contact with scouts or feedback or anything. I had feedback from the UAC. Really what I would try to do this year is winning. That’s why I came to Kentucky and that’s what I’m trying to bring to this team is that experience to win games really. Whatever it takes, sacrifice, whatever the team needs me to sacrifice, and play my role at my best to help that team win and win the national championship.”

On if there is a player he models his game after in the professional ranks …

“Yeah, there are a couple of guys for different parts of the game. Currently I really like Anthony Davis. I’m trying to model my game after him. He’s a great defender He can guard one through five and that’s something I try to incorporate in my game, but he’s also a stretch five, one of the best centers in the league and an NBA champion. I also watch a lot of tape of Hakeem Olajuwon for his footwork, counter moves, counter-to-counter moves and all types of stuff. He was also a great defender. All-around player. He could shoot as a big. All these guys. Tim Duncan. All these big guys. LaMarcus Aldridge, I think, is an underrated big in the league right now, but he’s a great midrange scorer and that’s something I try to put in my game.”

On how he has adjusted to the COVID bubble environment at Kentucky and if it has created a new discipline for him in how he goes about things since that is what will keep him on the court playing …

“I mean, not really, honestly. That was my lifestyle before. It’s my room and then eating and then going to the gym or the weight room, so it didn’t change anything that much other than bringing other guys closer to each other, you know, being in this bubble. We’re really close to each other because we have no distraction. We’re avoiding leaving the lodge, the residence, and just staying safe. So I think it’s helping the team chemistry so far.”