Olivier Sarr and Jacob Toppin are eligible to compete for the Kentucky men’s basketball team this season.
The NCAA and Southeastern Conference have determined Sarr and Toppin are immediately eligible to play at Kentucky for the 2020-21 season.
“I want to start by thanking the NCAA, the SEC and Kentucky for this opportunity,” said Saar, a centerpiece at Wake Forest over the last three seasons who transferred to UK in early May. “I am excited to finish my college career in front of the Big Blue Nation and chase No. 9 with my team.”
Sarr will provide the Wildcats a big boost upfront. The 7-footer enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20 with the Demon Deacons, averaging 13.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He shot 52.7% from the floor, made the All-Atlantic Coast Conference Third Team and was the runner-up for the 2020 ACC Most Improved Player award.
“This is a big day for me and I want to thank the NCAA and my Kentucky family for their help in this process,” said Toppin, who transferred to UK in April. “I can’t wait to get on the court with this group of guys and play in front of our fans.”
Toppin, a 6-8 forward, is the brother of Dayton’s Obi Toppin, the consensus national player of the year in 2019-20. Like his brother Obi, who averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a redshirt sophomore, Jacob possesses a high upside with good size and great athleticism.
“I’m excited for Olivier and Jacob,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “Both have worked really hard and deserve this opportunity. They were both hopping and skipping out of my office after getting the news because they’ve been waiting on this day. I want to thank the NCAA and the SEC for considering the unique circumstances surrounding this season and we appreciate them working with us throughout this process.
“In Olivier’s case, I know this has been difficult for him, everything from the coaching change at Wake Forest, to deciding his future to waiting through this process. He’s gone about his business every day and continued to work hard in hopes of joining his teammates on the floor this winter.
“Jacob came here needing a fresh start. From day one, he’s been a great teammate and been an important part of this group in practice. He has tremendous upside and a great spirit about him.
“I know we’re all looking forward to chasing our goals soon.”
Widely regarded as one of the nation’s top transfers, Sarr totaled 664 points, 496 rebounds and 81 blocks with 31 starts in three seasons at Wake Forest.
Sarr should offer Kentucky an elite rim protector with considerable size and good athleticism. In his third season with the Demon Deacons, he led the team with 11 double-doubles and 33 blocks, scored in double figures in 23 games, and was a two-time ACC Player of the Week. Sarr was particularly good late in conference play, finishing on a six-game double-figure scoring run with three double-doubles.
Included in that season-ending tear was a 20-point, 13-rebound game vs. Pitt in the 2019-20 finale, a career-high 30 points and 17 rebounds in a win vs. Notre Dame, and 25 points in a double-overtime victory over Duke. Sarr also enjoyed three straight double-doubles in January vs. Virginia, Clemson and Boston College and recorded 21 points and 13 rebounds vs. nationally ranked Arizona.
Sarr showed promise as a sophomore, averaging 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 25 games, including 16 starts. He led the team with 25 blocks and scored in double figures in four games.
Prior to his career at Wake Forest, Sarr played for the French National Team at the U-17 and U-18 levels. He will be the 10th 7-footer in UK history and the first since Isaac Humphries in 2016-17.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Toppin became an immediate contributor for a Rhode Island team that went 21-9 on the season and finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10. He scored in double figures five times in his freshman season, highlighted by 12 points and eight rebounds vs. Richmond, a potential at-large NCAA Tournament team this past season, and 12 points in 11 minutes vs. Saint Joseph’s. He also performed well vs. his future SEC foes Alabama and LSU, scoring 11 points and 10, respectively, in nonconference play.
Toppin showed an ability to stretch the floor with 13 3-pointers, including three vs. Alabama. He shot 42.6% from the floor.
The experience and depth of the frontcourt transfers will be critical for one of the most inexperienced rosters of the Calipari era. UK will be tasked with replacing 94% of its scoring from last season – most under Calipari – 92.4% of its minutes, 84.4% of its rebounds, 98.6% of its assists and 91.5% of its blocks.
The Wildcats bid farewell to eight of their top nine scorers from a season ago, including all five starters. The lone major returning contributor from last season will be sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr., who averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in 31 appearances, including six starts.
Calipari and his staff have prepared for the losses – which included five underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft – with the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruiting class and three key transfers.
UK’s seven-man freshman class features six consensus five- and four-star prospects, including top-10 signees Brandon Boston Jr. and Terrence Clarke. In addition to Sarr and Toppin, UK also added Creighton graduate transfer Davion Mintz.
Kentucky has not yet released its revised 2020-21 schedule after the NCAA Division I Council recently approved moving the first contest date in Division I men’s basketball to Nov. 25.
The SEC has established Dec. 29 and 30 as the new start dates for the conference schedule. With the league scheduling framework set and the maximum number of games set, UK will have nine nonconference games — if it plays in a multi-team event that includes three teams — to work with. That includes the SEC/Big 12 Challenge (Kentucky will play Texas, as announced earlier Wednesday).
The full schedule is expected to be released soon. UK is hopeful to honor many of its previously announced nonconference games.
Programs across the country could begin preseason practice Wednesday and will have 42 days to conduct a maximum of 30 practices. During this time, players can work out up to 20 hours per week, four hours per day, and must have one day off per week. This model is generally consistent with the normal preseason practice period but permits additional flexibility for all teams to begin full practice on Oct. 14, regardless of when their first scheduled game occurs.
‑ GO CATS –
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