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NCAA says Olivier Sarr can play for Kentucky this season, but he's not eligible yet

By Ben Roberts, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The NCAA has approved star basketball player Olivier Sarr's transfer waiver to play immediately at Kentucky this season.

That doesn't mean Sarr is eligible to suit up for the Wildcats just yet.

On Tuesday night, ESPN commentator Dick Vitale said on social media that the NCAA had approved Sarr's request to play the 2020-21 season at Kentucky after transferring from Wake Forest in the spring.

The Herald-Leader independently confirmed that information Wednesday morning. The NCAA has indeed approved Sarr's waiver request, but UK is now waiting on the Southeastern Conference to issue an additional waiver that would allow Sarr to bypass a transfer rule specific to the SEC.

The league's bylaw states that an incoming non-graduate transfer that has fewer than two seasons of remaining eligibility must be granted a separate waiver by the SEC in order to play right away. Sarr played three seasons at Wake Forest and came to UK this summer as an undergraduate student with one season of NCAA eligibility.

Throughout the process, UK has forwarded requests for comment on Sarr's status to the NCAA and the SEC. The SEC has not yet responded to questions from the Herald-Leader this week regarding the status of Sarr's request for immediate eligibility, and the Herald-Leader was told Tuesday that UK has been given no indication as to when a final ruling from the league would come down.

 

Sarr averaged 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game for the Demon Deacons last season, emerging as one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He decided to leave Wake Forest after the school fired head coach Danny Manning, and he was widely seen as the No. 1 transfer in all of college basketball this past offseason.

UK coach John Calipari said when Sarr decided to join the Wildcats that he would be an integral part of the program for the 2020-21 season. He is expected to be the team's starting center if the SEC allows him to play this season.

"I am excited to coach Olivier," Calipari said following Sarr's transfer decision in May. "Olivier is a great kid and a terrific player on the rise who knows he's going to have to come in and lead. He gives us a veteran, established player who has not only played on a big stage and played well, he wants this next challenge. When we first talked to Olivier, my first thought wasn't on what he does for this team, it was why he wanted to be here. I coached Danny and know his relationship with his players, so when Danny talked about what a great kid he is, we said, 'Let's do this.'

"Olivier 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."

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