Wildcats tune up recruit Alex Sarr for season opener
Perth Wildcats general manager of basketball operations Danny Mills says fans should be excited to see French phenom Alex Sarr in action with the club.
The 18-year-old, who combines his 216cm height with the ability to handle and shoot the ball, joined the Wildcats over the winter as part of the NBL’s Next Star program and rocketed into contention to be the first pick of next year’s NBA draft on the back of a pair of standout exhibition game performances against the NBA G League Ignite in America.
Mills told Sports Breakfast some inconsistency was to be expected from a young player, but the club had been delighted with Sarr’s preseason play.
“He’s definitely going to be a very good NBA player going forward. That’s exciting for our club, to have a player of his calibre be drafted out of here is fantastic,” Mills said.
“What Alex has done has really given us a lot of confidence going forward with the role he’s going to play in our team. He’s got unique size and length for our league.
“Even though he’s inexperienced at the professional level, the way he’s playing, the energy he’s playing with, it’s going to impact winning for us, which is really exciting for a guy that’s only 18 years old.”
Mills and head coach John Rillie have overseen significant roster turnover this winter, with Sarr, star big man Keanu Pinder, American defensive ace Jordan Usher, young WA talents Ben Henshall and David Okwera, and New Zealanders Hyrum Harris and Dontae Russo-Nance all joining the club.
After a pair of disappointing seasons, including the club’s 35-year playoff streak coming to an end in 2021, Mills said addressing the team’s rebounding and defensive issues was his key focus.
“We had the best offensive rating in the NBL (last season), at close to a historic level, but defensively, we were a bottom-two team. That’s always going to keep the other team in the game,” he said.
“We got some of the locals contracted early, we feel like there’s a great mix of youth combined with some veteran experience.
“We’re really excited about the group and how preseason’s played out so far.”
The Wildcats filled the final spot on their roster yesterday with the signing of American wing Kristian Doolittle.
The 25-year-old American, who has experience in the NBA G League, Puerto Rico, Japan, and Israel, only became available after being released by French club Limoges CSP following an argument with the club’s coach, but Mills said there were no concerns over his behaviour.
“Myself and JR reached out to a number of sources. We felt very comfortable that this is a one-off, isolated incident,” he said.
“We’re excited about Kristian and the way he was able to come on the free agent market so late in the season.
“He’s a 6’7” four man, can play both wing positions, slide to the three and play some five against small ball lineups, really good defender, high-level rebounder, and a guy who we think will fit in really well with our current roster.”
The Wildcats kick off their season by welcoming the Tasmania JackJumpers to RAC Arena on Friday night, with the game tipping off at 7:30pm WA time.