New Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said he took a thinly veiled shot at powerhouse Kentucky as he tried to convince star center Olivier Sarr to stay with the Demon Deacons and earn a “prestigious” degree.
Sarr, who averaged 13.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last season, is arguably the most coveted player in the transfer portal. He entered the portal shortly after Wake Forest fired Danny Manning last month.
“I think the most important thing is, why would you go to Wake for three years, put all that time in to get this prestigious degree, and end up getting your degree at a place like Kentucky?” Forbes said he told Sarr during a radio interview with North Carolina-based WSJS on Tuesday.
Forbes added he meant “no disrespect.”
Kentucky and other Power 5 programs are likely to be suitors for Sarr’s talents.
On the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges list, Wake Forest is ranked 27th and Kentucky is 132nd among national universities. In the basketball world, however, there is no comparison. Since 2009, four Wake Forest players have been drafted by NBA franchises; John Calipari’s program has produced 29 first-round picks over the same stretch.
Sarr, who is not a graduate transfer, told ESPN that he plans to apply for a waiver to compete next season. He said he will consider his professional options if he fails to attain that waiver.
Forbes, who amassed a 130-43 record at East Tennessee State, told WSJS that he spoke with Sarr over the weekend and told the big man that he’d blossom in familiar surroundings with teammates he’d already bonded with, as opposed to playing elsewhere. It’s a significant recruiting pitch, certainly Forbes’ most important mission in his first few weeks as Wake Forest’s head coach.
Sarr, a 7-footer who made 54% of his shots inside the arc last season, never experienced a winning season in three years under Manning. But Forbes said he emphasized the value of completing the mission when he spoke to Sarr.
“That’s no disrespect to Kentucky, because I obviously respect them,” Forbes told WSJS on Tuesday. “I just think there’s a lot to be said for putting all that work in academically and not being able to finish what you started. I know those things are all important to him. He said that. So, we’ll see. We’ll keep trying, we’ll keep plugging. We’ve got a lot of really good teams recruiting him.”