Star recruit Shaedon Sharpe leaves Kentucky for NBA draft

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

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

rhermens@herald-leader.com

Finally confirming months of expectations, star basketball recruit Shadden Sharp announced Tuesday night that he would be leaving Kentucky without ever playing a game for the Wildcats.

Sharp, who turned 19 on Tuesday, initially declared for the NBA draft on April 21 while retaining the option to return to college and play for England next season. Even so, however, he is widely expected in the basketball world to eventually keep his name in the 2022 draft, and despite never playing in college, he is still considered a potential top-five pick.

With the NBA draft exit deadline set for Wednesday, Sharpe made his decision officially.

“First of all, by the blessing of God, it is my honor to be admitted to the University of Kentucky,” he tweeted. “Thanks to #BBN for their support during my time with @kentuckymbb – with the positive feedback I’ve received, I will continue to enter the NBA draft.”

Earlier this month, Sharpe worked out for scouts and other NBA decision makers at an annual event around the league complex, but — like other touted draft prospects — he was in actual games or with the big media. The team left the town before talking and gathered in the exhibition hall.

During his months in Lexington last season, Sharpe also did not give any interviews to reporters outside of official British channels.

in a brief sit-in interview With NBA Insider Shams Charania During Combine Week, Sharpe hinted that he’s determined to stay in the 2022 draft. When Charania asked the teenager what he needed to see to make the decision to stay, Sharp responded as if it were already official, although no such announcement had been made.

“Just getting information from the team I want to hear from,” he said. “I think that really convinced me — and pushed me — to stay in the draft and declare.”

Immediately following the NBA draft lottery earlier that week, nearly every major national mock draft had Sharpe at the No. 5 overall Detroit Pistons or the No. 6 Indiana Pacers, and Sports Illustrated’s projections sent him to the Sacramento Kings at No. 4.

ESPN updated its NBA mock draft earlier on Tuesday, and Sharpe was No. 7 in the Portland Trail Blazers.

“There’s a reason Sharpe was No. 1 in his high school class, but his inexperience and low opinion of him could make it hard for a team that drafted 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

Sharp leaving Lexington so soon was not always the plan. At least publicly.

While the player himself hasn’t said much about his basketball journey or future plans, since Sharpe was first awarded a scholarship to the University of Kentucky nearly 18 months ago, his mentor and former AAU coach Dwayne Washington has to be interviewed on a regular basis.

Over the past year and a half, Washington has spoken to pioneer leaders several times about Sharp’s different stages of recruiting and early admissions in Kentucky. After deciding to leave high school early and come to England in January — and amid warnings from some recruiting circles that Sharpe likely won’t be playing for the Cats — Washington is trying to stop any talk of entering this year’s NBA draft.

“He came early so he could be the leader of the team next year. … We’re here for development,” Washington said in late January, after ESPN reported that Sharpe could be eligible for the 2022 draft.

Washington does leave the door open at the end of the season if Sharp played (and played well). But the 6-foot-6 shooting guard never saw the court for the Cats, only playing on the team as a five-star player.

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

The British coach eventually gave up on that certainty, and when Sharpe added his name to the NBA draft in late April, even those around the program were unhappy about his possible exit, though the door to a return remained. open.

“Seldon has been a fantastic teammate and has handled everything that comes with being a collegiate athlete the way he should,” Calipari said in an April 21 statement. He has been an integral part of our program since he came to our campus, he has already registered for summer and fall classes, but we support this decision to explore every option and provide his The best decision to make in the future will be received.”

With Sharp officially gone, the Wildcats are expected to have 10 scholarship players for the 2022-23 season — a list that will be led by National Player of the Year Oscar Zibwe.

Britain’s backcourt will include returning point guard Saville Wheeler, five-star combo guard recruit Carson Wallace, transfer shooting guards CJ Frederick and Antonio C. Reeves, along with low-profile guard recruit Adu Tierro. At the wing will be McDonald’s all-Americans Chris Livingston and Jacob Toppin, who announced their return to Kentucky earlier Tuesday. Tshiebwe will play alongside returning power forwards Daimion Collins and Lance Ware.

It’s still possible that Kentucky will be added late in the roster for the 2022-23 season, but in fact, most national college basketball outlets expect this to be a preseason top-five team.

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

This story was originally published May 31, 2022 at 9:52 pm.

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