Even for a program accustomed to roster turnover, Kentucky's latest personnel upheaval stands out.
The No. 10 Wildcats lost nine players from last season's 25-6 team, including their starting five. That list includes the coaches SEC player of the year selection Immanuel Quickley and All-SEC first0team player Nick Richards. That left sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. as the lone returning player from last year's rotation, and he started six of 31 games.
Of course, the turnover hasn't derailed expectations of another national championship in Kentucky. And it helps that Coach John Calipari has the consensus No. 1 recruiting class and three transfers, including 7-foot senior Olivier Sarr who is coming off a breakout season at Wake Forest. So Calipari will once again try to mold this latest group into contenders, but with practice limitations and protocols resulting from the pandemic.
"We're all together trying to figure everybody out," said Calipari, entering his 12th year at the school. "But this is every year. It's not just this year. We've had times where we've had two or three or four players return.
"This year's not one of those years."
And that's where the transfers could have the biggest impact in bringing things together.
At the very least, the additions of Sarr, former Rhode Island forward Jacob Toppin (Rhode Island) and fifth-year senior guard Davion Mintz (9.7 points and 3.0 assists per game last season at Creighton) provide much-needed experience. They also offer leadership for seven freshmen, including highly touted guards B.J. Boston and Terrence Clarke, and forward Isaiah Jackson.
Sarr's biggest mark, though, will have to be in the post after the exits of Richards and E.J. Montgomery. The native of France offered hints of what's to come after career-highs of 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds last season with the Demon Deacons, highlighted by a 30-point, 17-rebound performance against Notre Dame in February.
Both responsibilities intrigue Sarr as he adjusts to new teammates, Calipari and the move from one high-profile Power 5 conference to another.
"All I can do is just focus on my work, focus on helping the team as much as I can," said Sarr, who was granted immediate eligibility with Toppin to play late last month. "And then we'll see the impact at the end of the season.
"They're always willing to listen to any advice. ... It's just fun to be around them. It makes my job easier as a leader because they're always asking questions."