Oliver Sarr’s move to Kentucky marks one of the highest profile transfers of the college basketball offseason.
It’s still unclear if the seven-foot center born in Toulouse will be eligible for next season, as his attempt to get clearance without having to sit out one year seems to be based entirely on the fact that Danny Manning was let go at Wake Forest, where Sarr spent his first three years upon moving to the United States after developing during his mid-teens at INSEP – the famous French athletics program.
He averaged 14.8 points per 40 minutes on 55.2% true shooting and 11 rebounds per 40 minutes in 85 appearances these last three seasons but made a bigger leap in prominence after averaging 20.5 points per 40 minutes on 59.6% true shooting and recording a 26.4 PER in 802 minutes this past year.
Under Manning’s guidance, the 21-year-old developed as a post scorer and was the focal point of Wake Forest’s interior-driven attack last season – logging 24.2% usage rate and scoring over a third of his makes from two-point range unassisted.
Though not usually very physical attempting to set deep position, he manages to get a good enough seal in the mid-post or lower against his age group due to the nature of his 235-pound frame.
Sarr has a patient approach operating with his back to the basket, which can at times look too methodical. He doesn’t often go for quick moves or power moves, rarely attempting to leverage his general size into overwhelming less-physically developed opponents but nonetheless getting the benefit of the whistle quite a bit – averaging nine foul shots per 40 minutes this past season.
It’s more common to see him trying to show his sleek-ish footwork with spin moves, basic turnaround hooks and the occasional running hook. Those moves tend to look mechanical. His touch, with either hand, is decent but nothing substantially above average, as he shot 66.9% on 127 shots at the rim and 40.5% on 126 two-point shots away from the rim last season.
Sarr is also fond of facing up, jab-stepping and attempting a near-standstill outside shot on occasion but hasn’t looked all that promising in that area.
He will at times drive out of these face-ups, as well as on catches out of roll-and-replace and flashing to the foul line. Though Sarr has shown a little bit of coordination putting the ball on the floor in these instances, he is slow and doesn’t have any sort of lift elevating off one foot in traffic, shiftiness to shake his man side-to-side or dexterity pulling up off the bounce.
Sarr will attempt a three-pointer every once in a while out of these roll-and-replace catches but hasn’t yet developed into any sort of a threat to space the floor capably and regularly – missing 36 of his 47 three-point shots over his time in the NCAA.
In pick-and-roll, he’s shown to be a basic screener who hasn’t yet developed advanced techniques but who looks to draw contact and can dislodge on-ball defenders from ball-handlers fairly well when he plants his feet.
Sarr has shown glimpses of soft hands catching the ball on the move but nothing particularly impressive in terms of touch on non-dunk finishes in a crowd. He can play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense but needs time and space to load up before going up strong, yet to prove he can elevate quickly enough and explosively enough while rolling down the middle.
Sarr has flashed some coordination not to crash into the help on hard rolls, as well as some dexterity catching the ball around the foul line, dribbling for balance, and kicking out off engaging a help defender.
He hasn’t yet developed into a real asset helping facilitate for others, though, not on the move, not out of drawing double-teams in the post, not acting as a connective tissue while handling in the high post – assisting on just 8% of Wake Forest’s scores when he was on the floor, with a 0.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Sarr is at his most efficient on offense in the offensive glass, where he’s shown a knack for setting inside position and good instincts reacting to the ball quicker than the competition, besides the fact he’s able to reach it at a higher point than most opponents due to his standing reach and the fact he has flashed a surprising quick second jump – collecting 11.4% of Wake Forest’s misses when he was on the floor last season and converting his 29 putback attempts at a 73.1% clip.
On the other glass, Sarr was dominant. He allowed inside position on occasion but proved himself attentive to his boxout responsibilities and played with a little more toughness than he showed in other areas, not just putting a body on whoever was close by but often doing so physically to clear out his rebounding area – collecting 26.1% of opponents’ misses when he was in the game last season.
That edge in holding his ground could also be seen in post defense, where Sarr looked stout, besides keeping in mind to guard with his arms up near the rim to discourage opponents from attempting to finish over him.
Sarr had good moments as an effective presence defending closer to the basket. He’s shown a knack for making preventive rotations that deny space for a ball handler towards driving all the way to the basket and regularly blocked baseline paths to the goal.
Sarr averaged 26.7 minutes per game for a team that allowed opponents to take just 34.5% of live-ball attempts at the rim, a mark that ranked in the top third in the country last season.
He is active stepping to the front of the rim as the last line of defense and regularly challenged shots via verticality but at times didn’t seem strong enough to disrupt athletic finishers when they met in the air.
Sarr also doesn’t look quick enough for plays that require multiple efforts, where he’s needed to step up, force a drop-off and then turnaround to challenge his man going up out of the dunker spot.
He hasn’t stood out as a threat to block shots in volume, despite his size and length – averaging just 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes across the last three seasons. Wake Forest allowed 64% shooting at the rim last season, a mark that ranked 317th in the nation, which is not necessarily all on Sarr but doesn’t reflect well on his ability to anchor an above average effort defending the goal.
His average of 4.7 personal fouls per 40 minutes is pretty discouraging too.
He was asked to defend the pick-and-roll with a mix of dropbacks and hedges, while also finding himself switching against smaller players on occasion to make up for an on-ball defender getting stuck on the screen for too long.
On dropbacks, Sarr goes up at most a step beyond the foul line and does not approach the ball handler often, just giving up the pull-up jumper in these instances. When the ball handler doesn’t take that rhythm pull-up, Sarr has shown somewhat unexpected fluidity backpedaling and has proven himself capable of keeping pace with smaller players foul line down to discourage them from attempting to finish over or around him.
Perhaps more surprisingly, Sarr showed pretty good quickness defending the pick-and-pop here and there, able to run stretch big men who need time to load up their jumpers out of their shots more than a few times.
On hedges, he did well influencing ball handlers way high on the perimeter but lacks the speed to recover back in a timely manner.
On switches, Sarr bends his knees to get down in a stance and had some promising possessions flashing some lateral agility against guards who didn’t have much side-to-side quickness. Against these types, he couldn’t necessarily stay in front to force a pull-up but managed to stay attached well enough to discourage them from attempting to finish over or around him.
But despite his pretty decent balance for a seven-footer defending off the bounce, Sarr doesn’t seem like a real option to pick up truly quick smaller guards one-on-one, as those types with real north-south speed managed to just beat him on the first step and get to the goal before he could get to them from behind.
 According to sports-reference
 DOB: 2/20/1999
 According to hoop-math
 According to hoop-math
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara