The Kentucky Wildcats are now together on UK’s campus and preparing for the upcoming season.
The hope is this will be another one of John Calipari’s special teams that makes it all the way to the Final Four, something they haven’t done since 2015. Calipari himself has expressed a lot of excitement that this group can be special, largely due to a unique blend of impact veterans and blue-chip recruits that helped UK reach four Final Fours in a five-year span while winning the 2012 National Championship.
But for that to occur next season, two things must happen.
The first is Olivier Sarr being ruled eligible to play next season. The former Wake Forest center will be an all-conference level player if he gets a transfer waiver, though the calendar is now turning to August and still no word on if he can play next season.
Another key to UK reaching its full potential next season is how good freshman guard Brandon ‘BJ Boston can be. UK’s first top-five recruit since 2015 has the potential to also be the Wildcats’ first top-five NBA Draft pick since 2017.
Now, Kenny Payne is adding to the hype.
In an interview with Kyle Tucker of The Athletic, UK’s associate head coach provided some added excitement in regards to Sarr and Boston.
In the case of Sarr, Payne is confident the big man will be eligible to play next season.
“I feel comfortable that we’re going to have Olivier,” Payne told The Athletic last week.
As for Sarr’s game, Payne is really excited about what kind of impact the senior center can provide UK.
“Olivier is proven, he’s done it on a big scale in a great conference, and we’re expecting him to be even better than he was at Wake,” Payne said. “He’s a unique big man who can really change the game in different, dynamic ways: He can shoot it from 3, shoot it from mid-range, is good in the post, a really good passer.”
But perhaps the most exciting piece of info he divulged what how special Boston can be, as there may have never been a player like him at UK under the watch of Calipari and Payne.
“I don’t know if we’ve had anybody quite like him (Boston). You can’t put him in a box,” Payne said. “I’ve seen him play point guard on the circuit and more than hold his own. I’ve seen him come off screens and play the three and be excellent. I’ve seen him play the two and be excellent. I’ve seen him guard fours. He’s unique; he’s versatile. You can isolate him and he can get a shot. He’s really good in transition. He’s very comfortable passing the ball. And he doesn’t let anything rattle him; he’s even-keel, his temperament is great. All of those things I just described, basically, that’s what it is to be a pro.”
UK has seen a wealth of special players come through Lexington under Calipari, so hearing Payne say they haven’t had someone like Boston is exciting to hear.
And as far as being ready to hit the ground running, there have been few, if any as prepared as Boston will be. After all, he played at a national powerhouse in Sierra Canyon that was loaded with NBA talent and big-name recruits, including the sons of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. That had Boston playing under as big of a spotlight as you’ll see in high school hoops, and all he did was have a fantastic senior season that earned him some major awards and honors, including being named California’s Basketball Player of the Year and Athlete of the Year.
While Boston will largely play on the wing, Payne alluded to an undervalued aspect of his game in that he can run the point effectively. UK is hoping the combination of five-star recruit Devin Askew and redshirt senior Davion Mintz can run the show. But if they struggle, perhaps Boston running the point could put UK in the best position to win big next season, even if it is just for brief stretches in games.