French big man Alex Sarr, a projected top-20 NBA draft pick in 2024, told ESPN he has signed a deal with the Perth Wildcats of the Australian NBL for next season.
Sarr, who stands just under 7-foot-1 in shoes, with a 7-4½ wingspan, is projected as the No. 17 pick in ESPN's 2024 mock draft. He spent the past two years at Overtime Elite (OTE) in Atlanta after previously playing for Real Madrid's youth team in Spain.
"I've been looking for a new challenge," Sarr said. "The OTE experience was great. I had all the resources in the world and improved a lot the past two years. I need to take the next step with my game now; the NBL is what I need."
Sarr won a bronze medal at the FIBA U17 World Cup last summer, leading the event in player efficiency rating (PER) after posting 12 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steal in just 18 minutes per game. He said he has been invited to try out for France's FIBA U19 World Cup and U18 European Championship rosters this summer, but hasn't decided yet which team he'll join.
Sarr, who turned 18 three weeks ago, averaged 9.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 23 minutes for the YNG Dreamers at OTE this season, helping his team to the finals of the league's playoffs with his unique combination of mobility, length, defensive versatility, quickness getting off his feet and feel for the game.
Sarr is the second projected first-round pick committing to join the NBL's Next Stars program for next season, joining American guard A.J. Johnson, who will play for the Illawarra Hawks. This marks the first time Perth, a traditional NBL powerhouse that won the NBL championship in five of the past 10 seasons, has signed a Next Stars prospect, a league-driven program that signs and places elite NBA prospects with NBL clubs.
"Perth has a winning tradition," Sarr said. "It's a great club that I wanted to be a part of. I want to make an impact there and help them make the playoffs."
Sarr is also the third French player to join the Next Stars program in the past two years, after 2022 lottery pick Ousmane Dieng and projected 2023 top-20 pick Rayan Rupert. Sarr said the success they found in the NBL with the New Zealand Breakers made his decision easier.
"It helped me since I know those players, and I know of them," Sarr said. "I talked with Ousmane because he's my brother's teammate in OKC, he said it's a great league and pathway to take the next step with my game."
Sarr has been in Atlanta since the OTE season concluded in early March, but will return to Toulouse, France, to train with his brother Olivier Sarr, a former Kentucky Wildcat who finished this season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, for the next few months before reporting to Perth in late July.
"My brother and I are very close," Alex said. "We talk every day. Our paths shaped up differently. He didn't have a straight line to the NBA. He told me not to consider myself the young guy at Perth next season. Go out there and compete, impact both ends of the floor and be one of the best players every game, regardless of whether I'm playing guys my age or grown men. That's my mentality."
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.