Perth Wildcats coach John Rillie expects Alex Sarr will stay for the full NBL season despite growing hype suggesting the French teenager could be the No.1 pick in the 2024 NBA draft.
Sarr's prospects have soared since arriving at the Wildcats as part of the NBL's Next Star program, and he's now being projected as next year's top NBA draft pick by some analysts.
Guards Isaiah Collier and Ja'Kobe Walter are other players in the early running for the No.1 pick, but Sarr's improved three-point shooting and strong physicality in the post have set tongues wagging among scouts.
Sarr is averaging 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this season for the Wildcats, and the 216cm big is shooting at 47 per cent from the field.
The 18-year-old has played a key role in the Wildcats' five-match winning run that has propelled Perth (7-5) into fourth spot.
Rillie is confident Sarr will stick out the full season instead of cutting his stay short to avoid injury.
"My expectation is he'll be here for the full season," Rillie told reporters on Thursday.
"For me, and I never worked at the NBA level, but if you want to truly solidify yourself, being on a winning team and influencing and impacting a team that wins ... speaks volumes.
"Because everyone talks about winning."
The Wildcats are set to be without Corey Webster for several games to give him more time to recover from an ankle injury.
Webster had issues with his ankle in the pre-season, and an awkward fall in round one worsened the situation.
The 34-year-old hasn't featured in the past three games, and Rillie wants to take a cautious approach with the veteran.
The current FIBA break will help to give Webster more time, and it seems unlikely he will suit up against the second-placed Sydney Kings (7-4) when the Wildcats are back in action on December 1.
"It's just got to a stage now where he needs rest to recover," Rillie said.
"Even after we come back from this break, we play three games in a couple of weeks.
"While we have a slower schedule, we'll really try to allow him to get to as close to 100 per cent as possible.
"Corey Webster is going to have a huge influence on the success of the Wildcats this year, but I want him as close to 100 per cent as possible."
Australian Associated Press