Shaedon Sharpe, 'mystery man' of NBA draft, was ready to play for Kentucky, teammate says

Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO — Bobby Marks, ESPN’s NBA Front Office Insider, said Shaedon Sharpe made a great impression in a Monday workout arranged by an agent.

“One of the better individual workouts that I’ve witnessed,” said Marks, who is attending the NBA combine this week. “(Sharpe) shot the heck out of it.”

The problem for NBA people is they don’t have much else on which to base an evaluation of Sharpe. His last productive high school season came as a junior when he averaged 24.1 points and six rebounds.

Sharpe did not play in NBA combine games this week. He left Chicago on Wednesday. The Herald-Leader was told that his intent all along was to go through combine measurements (6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, 4.8% body fat), participate in team interviews and conduct the private workout.

Kentucky fans probably could relate to what could be termed as a premature departure. The hype surrounding Sharpe, the No. 1 player in his high school class, inflamed great expectations. But after arriving at UK in January, he was a practice player. The stated plan was for Sharpe to be Kentucky’s star player next season. But then projections of being one of the first picks in the June 23 NBA draft changed everything. Sharpe has until June 1 to make his stay-or-go decision official but that decision seems self-evident.

TyTy Washington, who is participating in the NBA combine, had a practical bottom-line reaction to Sharpe’s basketball trajectory.

“If I had a child and they say he’s top five and won’t have to play a minute of college, we’re going to take that route,” Washington said during a combine interview session Thursday.

Washington acknowledged that some UK fans could be unhappy.

“It sucks that he didn’t get a chance to play,” Washington said. “It sucks that people didn’t get to see him play.

“We all know at the end of the day, the game of basketball at the highest level is a business. So, you know, you’ve got to do what’s best for you and yours. Not so much for everybody else. If that’s what Shaedon feels is best for him and his, then I’m going to support him all the way because that’s my brother.”

Yes, Washington said, Sharpe is a talented player. “Not everybody in the world can say they’ve got a 47-inch vertical and shoot the ball the way he does,” he said.

Washington smiled and shook his head as he told reporters of Sharpe’s prowess as a dunker.

“He told me about some of his dunks, he was making them up because he thought of them at the last minute,” he said. “I thought, you can jump in the air and just switch up your dunk? … That’s a special talent right there.”


During last season, UK coach John Calipari repeatedly cited Sharpe’s late arrival and the need to learn plays and teammates as a factor in not playing.

Washington said Sharpe was ready to play and contribute by season’s end.

“Most definitely …,” he said. “You could see so much improvement.”

Washington said he did not speak with Sharpe about the lack of playing time.

When asked how he sensed Sharpe felt about not playing, Washington said, “I’m pretty sure down inside, he was not upset, but just like any kid who loves basketball wants to play. Nobody wants to sit around and practice every day. And go to the games and watch your teammates play. Nobody wants to go through all that bumping and grinding and all that heavy stuff, and then not play.”

As for Sharpe leaving the NBA combine on Wednesday night, Marks said, “I wouldn’t overreact.”

The ESPN analyst acknowledged that there’s not a wealth of information available on Sharpe. Besides his junior season of high school, there’s only the 2021 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (22.6 points) and the 2019 FIBA Under 16 Americas Championships (13.0 points playing for Canada).

“So, a lot of it is kind of, like, gut …,” Marks said of how NBA teams can evaluate Sharpe. “He’s basically a guy who gets you fired or you’re going to be talked about with why did teams in front (of your team in the NBA draft) pass on him?”

In his mock draft for ESPN, Jonathan Givony called Sharpe the “mystery man of the draft.” SBNation’s mock draft referred to him as “perhaps the biggest wildcard in the draft.”

Most, if not all, mock drafts have Sharpe taken with one of the first 10 picks. This raised a question in Marks’ mind.

“If you’re going to get drafted fifth or sixth overall, why even go to college?” the ESPN analyst said. “Why even be there?”

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