The Kentucky Wildcats’ basketball team arrived on campus Sunday to begin getting ready for the 2020-21 season.
Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr is officially on campus, but it remains to be seen if he will get the chance to play a game for the Wildcats.
Sarr didn’t haven enough credits to graduate and become a grad transfer so he is hoping to receive a waiver from the NCAA to allow him immediate eligibility. We have already seen former Wildcat Johnny Juzang be granted a waiver as well as other transfers.
Coach Cal lost his entire starting five from last season and eight of the top nine scorers. However, he replaced that by bringing in Kentucky’s first No. 1 overall recruiting class since 2015. But the NCAA’s decision on Sarr’s eligibility will be the biggest thing that could turn this team into a legit title contender.
Jeff Borzello of ESPN ranked all of the remaining offseason decisions in college basketball that are left to be made and the waiver decision on Sarr came in at No. 4 on the list.
“Whether Olivier Sarr can play for the Wildcats next season is going to be the biggest waiver storyline of the offseason. He left Wake Forest following the coaching change in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and ultimately committed to Kentucky. Sarr, a 7-foot center, earned third-team All-ACC honors last season and was arguably the best transfer all spring. He would immediately start at center for the Wildcats, and John Calipari doesn’t have any comparable alternatives if Sarr isn’t eligible to play right away. Sarr also has said he wouldn’t stick around in Lexington if his waiver was denied and he was forced to sit out before playing. Sarr being eligible would push Kentucky into the top five nationally, but his waiver being denied would leave Kentucky in the top 15 to 20 due to questions down low.”
Sarr has been considered the nations No. 1 transfer coming off a year where he averaged 13.7 points while shooting 52.7% from the floor as well as 9.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He also had 11 doubles-doubles on his way to being named to the All-ACC Third Team.
Chris Fisher of Cats Pause noted the monster outings he had in the biggest games last season.
“He went for 21 points and 13 rebounds in a December loss to No. 14 Arizona. In back-to-back outings in late February, he scored 25 points in a double overtime win over Duke and put up 30 points and 17 rebounds in a win over Notre Dame. In the season finale, he posted 20 points and 13 boards in a loss to Pitt, but Wake finished the season just 13-18 and an ACC-worst 6-14.”
Coach Cal has talked about the addition of Sarr and is excited about having a veteran that is already an established player.
“He gives us a veteran, established player who has not only played on a big stage and played well, he wants this next challenge,” Calipari said. “Oliver was one of the best players in the ACC last season and got better and better – as he’s done his whole career – as the year went on. By the end of the season, he was one of the top five players in the league. I’m ecstatic he wanted to be a part of this program and what we have going forward.”
Dick Vitale reported in June that Kentucky had submitted all the required paperwork to the NCAA for a waiver.
We should know fairly soon the NCAA’s decision as it typically take about 3 weeks for the process to happen. If Sarr is not ruled eligible he will then begin the appeals process.
Sarr was talked out of going to the NBA Draft only to see his head coach Danny Manning fired just before the draft deadline. However, that was Sarr’s biggest case to the NCAA for a waiver and now the deadline has been extended to October 16th making it even harder for him to get a waiver.
If Sarr is not granted eligibility he has already said he would not sit out a year and would go start his professional career.
Hopefully, the NCAA continues their recent trend and gives Sarr immediate eligibility since this is a rule that is more than likely going be changed next year.
We will have any updates on the NCAA’s decision as information is released.