By Reinaldo Bessa

It is becoming extremely common, for French young players, to move from their home country to the United States to play basketball. But common is not the right word to use, if we want to talk about Alexandre Sarr.
It’s not common to measure 6’11 at 17 years old, and be such a talented basketball player.
It’s not common to be born and raised in a basketball-oriented family.
It’s not common to be the first European prospect to join the Overtime Elite program.
While I was making the decision of joining OTE, I’ve never really thought about the risk of joining a completely different environment for my development. I just knew they were an extremely intriguing project, and I just wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a pioneer for OTE”.

He was just 14 years old when decided to grab his bags and move to Spain. Madrid, to be precise. The Big Stage, named Real Madrid, called pretty soon in his life.
But then, after just two seasons in the Spanish capital, he accepted this new challenge.
After my second year in Madrid, OTE reached out to me, and they told me everything about the project, about what they wanted to build here in Atlanta. I got really interested: I had the chance to visit and see things with my own eyes. Then, I took the decision”.
Like it or not, moving from European basketball to a completely new league brings with it many differences. “The first thing that you can notice is that, here, everybody is more athletic. While I was in Real Madrid, I feel like the athletic part of my game kind of stood out. Here you have to put so much effort to get buckets, because everybody can block your shot. If you go up soft, everybody will swat your shot away. You must play harder, get stronger and be as athletic as everybody”.
Before heading to Atlanta, during summer 2021, Sarr was part of the French selection that conquered the gold medal in Skopje, Macedonia, at the FIBA U16 European Challengers. He was a key part of the team, as he scored 12.2 points and grabbed 5.4 rebounds per game, with highs of 20 points and 6 rebounds in the Championship game vs Lithuania.
What makes me different from other bigs – says Sarr – is that I’m pretty fluid for my size. I’m really mobile on the court: I can run the floor, I can shoot and I’m pretty good handling the ball too. I’m just trying to add as many skills to my game as I can, in order to be different from any other big”.
His pride on defending French colors will bring him back to Europe this summer, he assures. “Just representing my country is an honor, whether it will be the FIBA U17 World Cup or playing with older guys. I really don’t know yet, but just playing for France it’s a dream to me. I’m sure that I’ll be able to put on display all the hard work I put in this year”.
Going back to OTE, one thing that gives a boost to the program is having former NBA players in the staff. They offer a solid help to young players, putting in work and creating the right mentality. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot since I came here. I was able to work and improve significantly my shooting abilities, thanks to our coaches. I also added a lot of strength all over my body, because OTE is about lifting too, and we go hard on the weight room. I just need to keep working: everything I can do right now, I can still do it better”.
The academic part is another big difference between Overtime Elite and European basketball. In OTE, it is less impactful in the life of a player. “The fact that you can adapt your school schedule, to the practice schedule, really helps us out. You can set up your schedule, in order to focus more on basketball one day, and on school in another. But at the end of the day, there’s still a high school diploma to get, so we all have this in mind”.
Alexandre Sarr is all smiles talking about his new life in the U.S., but also going back in the days, thinking about how early basketball started impacting his life. “My dad used to be a pro player when I was younger, and I would always watch him play. We had a rim in our backyard: I never thought about playing a sport, but I just enjoyed launching that ball in the basket for fun, with Olivier”.
Olivier Sarr, one of Coach Calipari’s products in Kentucky, is now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Him and Alexandre grew up together, watching their dad play pro basketball in France. Their bond is something special. “I feel that having my brother living in the United States helps me a lot. I came here and I know that I’m not alone: he’s here, I can call him and he’ll always gives me an advice. It’s nice to have someone from your own family in the same country as you”.
His basketball dream? Pretty obvious. “You know, playing in the same league as my brother. That’s my life-long dream. We always talked about it since I was young, and I just hope to make it one day. I hope to be a part of the NBA after the Draft of 2024.
Playing alongside him or against him? Same. Both scenarios are all I can wish and dream for”.
Being able to look back at your childhood at 17, this is not common either. Pursuing a dream since you’re young, making sacrifices, going far from your family, living in other countries. There’s so much in Alexandre Sarr’s young career. “I always like to think that: the hardest you work, the better things are going to happen to your life. And I can describe myself as a hard worker. I will say that my parents can be proud of the fact that I work hard every day, in order to reach my goal”.
From the past, to the future. What does Alexandre Sarr see in front of him? “For the next 2/3 seasons, I just expect to step up and improve my game. I need to keep playing the way I play, and work even harder. After that, we just watch the outcome. I just want to get better. As I said, playing in a big stage representing my country is an honor, so I’m just waiting to see what I will do in the summer”.