NBA Draft 2022: Shaedon Sharpe was only a practice player at Kentucky but became a lottery pick

·3 min read

The last time Shaedon Sharpe played a competitive basketball game was his last year of high school playing for Dream City Christian in Glendale, Arizona in 2021.

Sharpe slashed to the rim, while showing his range from behind the arc with several deep 3-pointers. That served as a preview of his limitless potential. The 6-foot-6 explosive guard was a highly sought-after prospect that ultimately decided to attend the University of Kentucky.

The consensus No. 1-ranked prospect for the 2022 class graduated a semester early and enrolled at Kentucky in January to prepare for the 2022-23 college season. Kentucky coach John Calipari reportedly flirted with the idea of playing Sharpe last season after the discovery that he was NBA draft-eligible.

But Sharpe never played in a game, instead participating with the team only as a practice player. Calipari had said that he expected Sharpe to return to Kentucky for next season, when he was supposed to lead a roster with national title aspirations.

Instead, Sharpe declared in April for the NBA draft. And despite not playing a single minute for the Wildcats, he became a lottery pick.

On Thursday night, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sharpe with the seventh pick in the NBA draft.

Shaedon Sharpe shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the seventh overall pick.
Shaedon Sharpe shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the seventh overall pick.

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Sharpe’s talent is undeniable, but his recent inactivity has caused “mystery,” as many are curious if his game can translate to the next level.

“In my mind, he’s the No. 1 draft pick," Calipari said in a February interview with Kentucky Sports Radio. "How can I say I know what the No. 1 draft pick looks like? Cause I’ve had four [of them].”

Prior to arriving at Kentucky, Sharpe was the top prospect in the 2022 class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rating.

Sharpe transferred to Dream City Christian after an impressive career at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas. In his junior year at Sunrise Christian, he led them to a 22-3 record and several national television appearances.

He chose Kentucky over Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, Oregon, Creighton and others.

When Sharpe joined the program in January, he could have worked his way into the lineup. He had said he would only play if needed.

But although he never played alongside other Kentucky draft hopefuls like TyTy Washington, he’s content with how everything turned out in his lone season in Lexington.

“Everything happens for a reason, so I don’t regret not playing,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe is an explosive athlete, with the ability to score on all three levels of the court. The Canadian native has an ultra-quick first step and a lethal crossover that allows him to get to scoring positions with ease.

He also has the ability to defend at a high level and cause havoc in the passing lane with his 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan.

While his game is based on his ability to score in short bursts, Sharpe is confident in his ability to run an offense and find open teammates for opportunities to score.

"I think I’m a high-level scorer, plus I can get my teammates involved and find them when they’re open as well and on the defensive side locking up and playing one through five," Sharpe said.

Sharpe patterns his game after some of today’s NBA All-Stars and hopes to emulate the success they have enjoyed.

“Right now I’m really watching Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, and Zach LaVine.” Sharpe told NBC Sports Washington.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shaedon Sharpe: From Kentucky practice player to an NBA lottery pick

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