Future Starts Now

Beyond the Hardwood: Frenchman Alex Sarr drawing international attention

Learn more about prospect Alex Sarr's upbringing in France, his time with the Perth Wildcats and his NBA goals.

The phenom is already making international waves at age 18.

Frenchman Alex Sarr has shot up mock draft boards over the past months and is currently slated as a top three prospect for the 2024 NBA Draft.

A 7-foot-1, 220 pound frame and 7-foot-5 wingspan is appealing to any NBA GM. Sarr’s ability to guard positions one through five and also protect the paint mirrors a mixture of Nic Claxton and Anthony Davis. His high-energy motor is reminiscent of a rainbow-haired Dennis Rodman. 

League scouts and front office execs are fascinated at the rate in which Sarr has improved offensively, possessing a versatile arsenal of playmaking ability for his size and off the charts athleticism.

All that to say – stock prices are rising for Sarr.

“I want to be known as someone that every time steps out on the court and plays really hard,” Sarr said. “This is my first role playing professional and I think I’m getting used to it. Getting used to what it takes, getting used to having a lot of games. I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming out so far and I’m hoping to keep it going.”

Early years

Born in Bordeaux, France and raised in Toulouse, Sarr picked up the game at the age of four after watching his dad, Massar, and older brother, Olivier, play. Massar is a former Senegalese pro and Olivier is currently on a two-way deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Whether they were playing NBA 2K or something else, these battles between Alex and older peers is where his competitive edge was formed.

“Everyday we were competing – in a good way, not even on the court,” Olivier Sarr said of his Alex.

“I’m six years older so when we were young – no offense Alex – I love him, it wasn’t really competitive. He would take it personal though, like he could win. I was like bro, there’s no shot – like physically, you’re just younger. He’s always had that spirit though – taking it to heart. He’s never been scared of anything.”

Alex credits his parents’ devotion to him and his older brother for cultivating this spirit of success, and how his father’s Senegalese background enforced a culture of pride, discipline and drive in their household. 

A reckless ambition to measure up against bigger and better competition across the grassroots scene in the south of France caught the eyes of staffers at Real Madrid’s Cadet A in Spain. Sarr spent two seasons playing on the youth team. 

The broader organization at Real Madrid Basketball is responsible for producing Slovenian NBA superstar Luka Doncic, who Sarr admired during his ascension to the league. Outside of his father and brother, there’s one guy he gives credit to when it comes to his development as a basketball player.

“I used to play with Izan Almansa,” Sarr said when recalling his Real Madrid days. “Since we were 14, we used to play together. We would really push each other at practice…we just played two games against each other at the G League Invitational…pretty cool following each other along the way.”

On-court success

After two seasons with Overtime Elite (OTE), Sarr signed with the Perth Wildcats of the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia, joining the team as part of the league’s Next Stars initiative. Thirteen players from the Next Stars Program have been drafted into the NBA, most notably guards LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey.

The basketball world got a glimpse of Sarr’s potential during the G League Invitational in September when the Wildcats faced the stacked Ignite roster, which includes projected first-round prospects Ron Holland and Izan Almansa. 

During the G League Fall Invitational in September, Sarr helped lead the Wildcats against the stacked Ignite roster, which includes projected first-round prospects Ron Holland and Izan Almansa. The Frenchman had 17 points, including two 3-pointers, seven rebounds and six blocks in the 124-105 loss to the Ignite. Two days later in a rematch against the Ignite, 18-year-old Sarr put up 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting, 10 rebounds and six blocks in his team’s 127-112 victory. 

“This is my first year playing professionally and I’m just getting used to it,” Sarr said. “It’s way more physical. Everybody’s stronger and there’s a lot more bumps and possessions in a game. I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming out so far and I’m hoping to keep it going.”

Sarr is averaging nine points, five rebounds and one block for the Perth Wildcats this season.

International hooper

The professional game overseas is distinctly different from the NBA, but the game in France specifically has grown exponentially over the past 25 years. Tony Parker, Rudy Gobert and rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama have helped establish the country as a basketball powerhouse. 

Sarr doesn’t turn 19 until April, and already has professional experience on three continents. It began in his family’s driveway in Toulouse where he worked constantly on different parts of his game with pops and big bro.

While Sarr is proud of his ability to adapt and learn different cultures as well as navigate different basketball systems, he’s keen on representing his country in a new light.

“I want to be a part of the French Olympic team next summer, of course,” said Sarr. “Basketball culture in France is big. We have a lot of players now in the league or coming up in the next generation. How I see it is in the next few years, our national team will be really good and I see us being on the top of Europe and why not compete for the gold medal in every tournament we have?”

Playing in arguably the most competitive pro leagues will make matters easier when adjusting to the next level, though Sarr understands that the NBA will be more than a challenge.

This year’s Draft remains a mystery for now. But Sarr’s obsessive work ethic and wisdom beyond his years are reasons why many think he can be impactful as soon as he puts on an NBA uniform.

“It’s impressive how mature he is off and on the court,” said his brother Olivier. “I think there’s a lot to his game that he still has to embrace and discover. I can’t wait for his future…sky’s the limit.”