Star rookie Shaedon Sharpe leaves Kentucky for NBA draft

Shaedon Sharpe shoots before the University of Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena in <a class=Lexington, Ky. on Tuesday, February 2, 2022.” title=”Shaedon Sharpe shoots before the University of Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. on Tuesday, February 2, 2022.” loading=”lazy”/>

Shaedon Sharpe shoots before the University of Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. on Tuesday, February 2, 2022.

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Finally confirming what has now been months overdue, star rookie basketball star Shaedon Sharpe announced Tuesday night that he will be leaving Kentucky without ever playing a game for the Wildcats.

Sharpe, who turned 19 on Tuesday, initially declared himself for the NBA draft on April 21 while leaving open the possibility of returning to university and dressing for the UK next season. Even then, however, basketball circles were expected to ultimately keep his name in the 2022 draft, where he was slated as a possible top-five overall pick although never played in college.

With the NBA draft withdrawal deadline set for Wednesday, Sharpe made his decision official.

“First and foremost, through the blessings of God, it was a privilege to attend the University of Kentucky,” he tweeted. “Thank you #BBN for your support during my time with @kentuckymbb – With the positive feedback I’ve received, I will remain in the NBA Draft.”

Earlier in the month, Sharpe worked for scouts and other NBA decision-makers at the annual events surrounding the league’s Combine, although – like other highly touted draft hopefuls – he left town before participating. to live matches or to speak to the large contingent of media. gathered in the window.

Sharpe also did not do any interviews with reporters outside the official UK channels in the few months he was at Lexington last season.

In a short interview with NBA insider Shams Charania during Combine week, Sharpe hinted that he had decided to stay in the 2022 draft. When Charania asked the teenager what he would need to see to make the decision to stay, Sharpe replied as if it was already official, although no announcement had been made.

“I’m just picking up information from the teams that I want to hear,” he said. “I feel like that really convinced me — and pushed me — to stay in the draft and declare.”

Immediately following the NBA Draft draw earlier that week, nearly every major national simulation draft had Sharpe either the No. 5 overall Detroit Pistons or the No. 6 Indiana Pacers, the projection of Sports Illustrated sending him to the Sacramento Kings at Number 4.

ESPN updated its draft NBA simulation earlier Tuesday, with Sharpe placed 7th for the Portland Trail Blazers.

“There was a reason Sharpe was the No. 1 ranked player in his high school class, but his lack of experience and what little evaluation he did could make it difficult for a team to pick higher than that. to roll the dice on him,” wrote ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony.

The NBA Draft is scheduled for June 23 in Brooklyn.

Never played for Kentucky

Sharpe leaving Lexington so soon wasn’t always the plan. Publicly, at least.

Although the player himself hasn’t spoken much about his basketball journey or future plans, his mentor and former AAU coach Dwayne Washington has been interviewed regularly since Sharpe landed an offer. Kentucky Stock Exchange nearly 18 months ago.

Washington has spoken to the Herald-Leader several times over the past year and a half, commenting on the various stages of Sharpe’s recruitment and early enrollment at Kentucky. Following the decision to leave high school early and come to the UK in January – and amid warnings from some in recruiting circles that Sharpe could very well get going without ever playing for the Cats – Washington tried to end any discussion of entering this year’s NBA draft.

“He arrived early so he could be a leader for next year’s team. … We came for the development,” Washington said in late January, following a report from ESPN that Sharpe would likely be eligible for the 2022 draft.

Washington left the door open to an end-of-season departure if Sharpe played (and played well) down the stretch. But the 6-foot-6 fullback never saw the field for the Cats, instead participating with the team only as a five-star practice player.

Amid all the talk, John Calipari has publicly stated that he expects Sharpe to return to Kentucky for the 2022-23 season, when he was supposed to be the star backcourt player on a roster with legitimate national title opportunities.

The British coach eventually gave up that certainty, and by the time Sharpe put his name in the NBA draft pool in late April, even those around the program were resigned to his likely exit, though the door remained. open for return.

“Shaedon was a great teammate and handled everything that comes with being a student-athlete the way he should,” Calipari said in an April 21 statement. “Since his arrival on our campus, he has been an integral part of our program and he is already enrolled in summer and fall classes, but we support this decision to explore all options and make the best decision for his future. based on all the information it can receive.”

With Sharpe now officially gone, he leaves the Wildcats with 10 expected scholarship players for the 2022-23 season – a roster that will be led by reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe.

The British backcourt will consist of returning point guard Sahvir Wheeler, five-star combo rookie Cason Wallace, transfer shooting guards CJ Fredrick, who sat out last season with injury, and Antonio Reeves, and under-the-radar rookie Adou Thiero. On the wings, Chris Livingston and Jacob Toppin, all Americans from McDonald’s, announced his return to Kentucky earlier Tuesday. Tshiebwe will fill the position alongside returning forwards Daimion Collins and Lance Ware.

There’s always the possibility of Kentucky making a late addition to the 2022-23 roster, but, as it stands, it’s a group projected into the top five of the preseason by most national basketball outlets. university.

ESPN’s Bracketology currently has Kentucky as the No. 1 seed for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

This story was originally published May 31, 2022 9:52 p.m.

Ben Roberts covers basketball, football, horse racing and other sports in the UK for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in basketball recruitment in the UK for the past few years. years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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