UK men’s basketball was picked to finish second in the league
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – November 12, 2020
Kentucky men’s basketball newcomers Brandon Boston Jr. and Olivier Sarr were selected to the two preseason All-Southeastern Conference squads by league and national media on Thursday.
Boston, a freshman, was tabbed to the five-man All-SEC First Team and Sarr, a senior transfer from Wake Forest, was one of six players on the All-SEC Second Team.
Voting was conducted by a select panel of both SEC and national media members.
For just the second time in 12 seasons under John Calipari and the first since the 2010-11 year, a season that culminated in a Final Four berth, the Wildcats were not picked to win the regular-season league crown. That preseason honor this season goes to the Tennessee Volunteers, who the media predicted will unseat the Wildcats, the defending SEC champions, in 2020-21.
Kentucky, ranked No. 10 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll earlier this week, was picked second, followed by LSU, Florida and Alabama, in that order.
In most seasons, UK has lived up to the high expectations, having won six regular-season SEC crowns in the Calipari era and a league-high 49 overall after posting a 15-3 record last season. The Wildcats also own six SEC Tournament titles under Calipari.
Each school selected media members that cover their team and additional media from across the nation were selected by the conference office to comprise the voting panel. Points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Ties were not broken.
Each media member also voted for two All-SEC teams.
Boston was joined on the All-SEC First Team by Alabama’s John Petty Jr., Florida’s Keyontae Johnson, LSU’s Trendon Watford and Tennessee’s John Fulkerson. Johnson was tabbed the preseason SEC Player of the Year, but Boston, Sarr, Petty, Watford, Fulkerson and Tennessee’s Yves Pons all received votes for the league’s top individual honor.
Sarr and Pons were joined on the All-SEC Second Team by Javonte Smart of LSU, Dru Smith from Missouri, AJ Lawson of South Carolina and Savion Flagg from Texas A&M.
While noteworthy, preseason honors don’t always tell the story of the season. Neither Immanuel Quickley nor Nick Richards were picked for the preseason media All-SEC teams or the coaches’ All-SEC picks a season ago. Quickley played his way to the coaches’ 2020 choice for SEC Player of the Year while making the media’s All-SEC First Team, and Richards was an All-SEC First Team selection by both.
Boston hopes to be in consideration for the end-of-season honors and will enter this 2020-21 with considerable fanfare. A consensus five-star prospect and Kentucky’s top-ranked player in the 2020 class, Boston averaged 19.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game at Sierra Canyon his senior season. He helped lead the team to a 30-4 mark and a No. 2 national ranking. Boston was named the California Male Athlete of the Year and the California Basketball Player of the Year by USA Today. He was also tabbed a First Team Naismith All-American, Second Team Sports Illustrated All-American, SLAM Magazine All-American, California Mr. Basketball and the Gold Coast League MVP.
Boston was selected to the McDonald’s All American Game, the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic and the Jordan Brand Classic. He averaged 22.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit prior to his senior season. Boston earned 2018-19 MaxPreps Boys Basketball Junior All-American Team honorable mention distinction after averaging 18.4 points, 5.4 rebounds 1.9 steals while leading his previous high school in Norcross, Georgia to the state semifinals as a junior.
Earlier this month, Boston was named to the Julius Erving Award preseason watch list. The Erving Award goes to the nation’s top small forward, as chosen by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sarr is on a similar Hall of Fame list as one of 20 players selected for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watch list, awarded annually to the nation’s top center.
Sarr, who was granted immediately eligibility last month after transferring from Wake Forest, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Kentucky will begin its season Nov. 25 vs. Morehead State in the first of three games in the Bluegrass Showcase at Rupp Arena. UK’s 2020-21 revised schedule was released last week. It features 27 games before postseason play, nine against some of the best nonconference opponents in the country and 18 in the always difficult SEC.
UK Athletics also recently announced a reduced capacity/distanced seating plan to host fans at Rupp Arena in the healthiest manner possible for the 2020-21 season based on the recommendations from state health officials. Anticipated attendance for the season will be up to 15% of normal arena capacity. All plans are subject to change based on evolving information as well as local, state and national public health developments. Information available tickets and game-day changes can be found here.
Kentucky will be tasked with replacing 94% of its scoring from last season – most of the Calipari era – 92.4% of its minutes, 84.4% of its rebounds, 98.6% of its assists and 91.5% of its blocks. The Wildcats said 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 eight-man freshman class features six consensus five- and four-star prospects, including Boston and Terrence Clarke, top-10 signees. The Wildcats also added Sarr, Creighton graduate transfer Davion Mintz and Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin. Sarr and Toppin were ruled immediately eligible last month.
All-SEC First Team
John Petty Jr. – Alabama
Keyontae Johnson – Florida
Brandon Boston Jr. – Kentucky
Trendon Watford – LSU
John Fulkerson – Tennessee
All-SEC Second Team
Olivier Sarr – Kentucky
Javonte Smart – LSU
Dru Smith – Missouri
AJ Lawson – South Carolina
Yves Pons – Tennessee
Savion Flagg – Texas A&M
SEC Player of the Year
Keyontae Johnson – Florida
Preseason Media Poll
8. South Carolina
9. Ole Miss
11. Texas A&M
12. Mississippi State