Home Sports 2024 NBA Draft: Alex Sarr has taken a unique path as the projected No. 1 pick

2024 NBA Draft: Alex Sarr has taken a unique path as the projected No. 1 pick

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French basketball player Alexandre Sarr of the Perth Wildcats enters the court before playing against the Tasmanian Jackjumpers during an Australian National Basketball League match at the Perth Arena in Perth on March 8, 2024. (Photo by COLIN MURTY / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by COLIN MURTY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Atlanta Hawks will make the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, and unlike last year when Victor Wembanyama was the clear No. 1 pick, there is no consensus No. 1 pick this year. But the favorite player to be number one is another French center, 7-foot-1 Alex Sarr.

Sarr’s path to the NBA has been unique. He turned professional at age 14, and his young career began in Spain and France before moving to the United States, where his older brother, Olivier, played college basketball at Wake Forest and Kentucky before going undrafted in the 2021 draft. . (Olivier Sarr played for the Oklahoma City Blue of the G League this season.)

Alex Sarr joined Overtime Elite’s semi-pro program for two years and last spring moved 12,000 miles to Perth, Australia to play for the Wildcats in the National Basketball League as part of the NBL’s Next Stars program.

Alex Sarr has taken a unique path to the NBA. (Photo by COLIN MURTY/AFP via Getty Images)

“The professional route suits me better as a player and has helped me develop my game better,” Alex Sarr told Yahoo Sports last fall. “The space allows me more freedom and versatility, which is why I chose to play in the NBL and not in college.”

Last September, to start the season, Sarr and his teammates traveled to Las Vegas for a pair of exhibition games against the G League Ignite. More than 200 scouts and executives packed the arena to watch Sarr and Ignite forwards Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland, the three projected lottery picks heading into the season. In the first game, Sarr finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and six blocks in 29 minutes. In the second game, he looked even more comfortable, coming off the bench and recording a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and adding six blocks in a 127-112 victory.

This was Sarr’s coming-out party. He left a strong statement and a lasting impression in those first two games that would continue throughout the season.

“There were times in both games where he was the best prospect on the court,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “A two-way player who showed everyone that he is more than just a rim protector.”

Sarr was a consistent contributor for Perth as they finished third in the NBL regular season with a record of 18-13. The versatile center went through stretches with minor injuries, but he never considered leaving the season early, even after showing enough to be considered a top-five prospect in the draft.

“It never crossed my mind not to finish the season, not even once,” Sarr told Yahoo Sports in November. “I committed to this team and I’m going to play until the end. I came here to get better and better and you can only get better if you’re on the court playing against real competition.”

Sarr averaged 9.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 18 minutes off the bench. He scored in countless ways all season long, whether it was shooting long 3-pointers in the pick-and-pop, taking players off the dribble, or catching lobs on the move or in transition. Defensively, he is one of the best shot blockers in this draft class and can shoot, deflect passes and alter shots with his 7-5 wingspan.

“The NBA is evolving and becoming more and more positionless, so even with my size, I have to be able to defend every position and feel comfortable with the ball in my hands,” Sarr said. “I feel like I’ve always been able to play on the perimeter and it’s nothing new or uncomfortable for me to get out of the paint and make plays.”

Due to his limited playing time with Perth, for scouts who made the long trip to see Sarr play, it was a smaller sample size. But the 19-year-old entered the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago looking physically stronger and tested well in agility and shooting drills. He did not participate in the 5-on-5 scrimmages and will likely only meet and train for a few top-5 teams.

“I just want to show NBA scouts how impactful I can be on the court, on or off the ball,” said Sarr, who played two years in Atlanta for Overtime Elite and told reporters at the combine that he attended several Hawks games, but he doesn’t know any of the players personally. “I think my versatility sets me apart from other bigs in this draft because of my rim protection, my high motor and my shot creation.”

The 2024 draft class is considered weak by most. While great players will emerge, no one knows if he will be the No. 1 pick or the No. 35 pick. But the upside Sarr has at 7-1, and his versatility as an inside-out two-way player, projects him in the same category. than the young hybrid centers like Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren who are taking the league by storm.

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