One of the biggest question marks for Wake Forest at the start of the season was who was going to step up down low and give the Deacs a post presence inside. With the loss of Ikenna Smart and Jaylen Hoard from last season’s team and Tariq Ingraham and Sunday Okeke from this season’s, the Deacs absolutely needed someone to emerge and control the paint. After 3 games in 4 days over the Thanksgiving weekend, we may have found our answer.
Olivier Sarr, who was removed from the starting lineup after a 7 point, 3 rebound performance against Columbia, finished the 3 game stretch in Anaheim averaging 17 points and 11.7 rebounds (4.0 offensive) per game in 26 minutes coming off the bench. He also shot 59% from the floor and 79% from the free throw line, which is pretty dang good. That culminated in Sarr being named to the Wooden Legacy All-Tournament Team.
Congrats to @sarr_olivier on being named to @TheWoodenLegacy All-Tournament Team. The big Frenchman averaged 17 points and 10.7 rebounds over the three games in Anaheim. #GoDeacs pic.twitter.com/U7JLw5jelb— Wake Basketball (@WakeMBB) December 2, 2019
Therefore, this Playbook installment will be less about actual plays and more about how Sarr helped the Deacs finish in 2nd place in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. Probably the biggest impact Sarr had in this tournament was his work on the boards. In the 3 games, Sarr grabbed 35 total rebounds, including 12 offensive rebounds. That’s a huge increase from last season, when Sarr averaged just 5.5 rebounds per game.
Frankly, he would have had even more rebounds if not for the other teams fouling him to keep him off the glass. Sarr managed to get to the stripe an incredible 24 times in the tournament, which you know had to make head coach Danny Manning happy. His 9-12 shooting from the free throw line in the championship game was a big reason why the Deacs were in the game until the final horn.
Outside of rebounding, Sarr also had a solid tournament scoring the basketball. Against College of Charleston and Long Beach State, he was the biggest man on the court, and he acted like it. He basically spent most of these games just pushing smaller defenders out of the way, catching the ball 2 feet from the basket, and dunking it—exactly what you would want your 7 footer to do against smaller teams.
Sarr finished the Charleston game with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 21 minutes played. Against The Beach, Sarr dropped 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, unfortunately breaking a 3 games streak of double digit rebounds.
You may think that his play in the first 2 games was due to the level of competition, but in the final game against the undefeated Arizona Wildcats, Sarr had probably his best game of the tournament, finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds. While he couldn’t bully the tandem of Zeke Nnaji (6-11, 240lbs) and Chase Jeter (6-10, 230lbs) the way he did the Cougars and Beach, he was able to adapt and did plenty of damage using the face-up jumper.
I don’t know if his elevation in play is due to coming off the bench as opposed to starting, but I believe that if Sarr can continue to play at this level, Wake Forest will have a chance in most of the remaining games on the schedule. Penn State doesn’t have a single player on the roster over 6-9, so we will have to see if Sarr can continue to dominate the boards on Wednesday when the Deacs take on the Nittany Lions in the ACC-Big10 Challenge.