Shaydon Sharp reflects on his path to the NBA draft. “I think I did something right.” | Basketball

LEXINGTON, Kentucky. Speaking for the first time – indeed, ever – to a large group of reporters, former No. 1 basketball rookie and Kentucky prospect Schaedon Sharp spoke mostly about his future on a conference call Friday before next week’s game. NBA Draft.

However, Sharpe briefly considered the past few months. Asked by the Lexington Herald-Leader if he had any regrets about his unorthodox stay in Lexington, the 19-year-old seemed to agree with how the situation turned out.

“Like I said, things happen for a reason,” Sharpe said. “So I don’t really regret not playing. Now I train for NBA teams. So I did something right.”

Indeed, Sharpe has spent the last few weeks giving NBA decision makers a few details about his potential. Specifically, he said he had already trained with six teams — the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs — plus training. with the Indiana Pacers, scheduled for Monday.

Sharpe said he thought those sessions went well. He also did not limit his expectations for the future.

“I see myself as one of the greatest players to ever play basketball,” he said. “To play at the highest level, just to achieve it, to compete. One of my goals as a rookie is to be Rookie of the Year. This is one of the goals. And then the All-Star Game. And then to the Hall of Fame.

Sharp was voted the No. 1 rookie in the class of 2022 before he decided to enroll in Kentucky classes a semester early, joining the Wildcats mid-season in January.

After some wrangling over whether or not he would play straight away, Sharp ended up sitting out the rest of the 2021–22 season. He trained with the team and did a pre-game warm-up at the Rupp Arena, but did not participate in any games.

It was a decision that did not sit well with an active part of the British fan base, although it was unclear throughout the process who was in charge of Sharpe’s status.

Sharp did not give any outside interviews during his time on campus, Calipari gave varying reports of his willingness to play real games right away, and basketball player mentor and longtime coach/coach Dwayne Washington left the option open and also said Sharp took his time to miss any steps in your progress.

On Friday afternoon, Sharp touched on the process of deciding not to play.

“I talked about it with Cal, my trainer, instructor, even my parents,” he said. “But in the end, I made the decision not to play.”

For most of Sharp’s time in the program, Kentucky coach John Calipari has publicly stated that he fully expects the star quarterback to return to Lexington for the 2022-23 campaign and be a key component of the Wildcats’ roster. At the same time, there were a lot of rumors in recruiting circles that Sharpe would review the NBA draft and most likely keep his name in the 2022 draft.

Apparently, this is exactly what happened: the day before the draft withdrawal deadline, Sharp announced that he would leave Kentucky without playing a game for the Wildcats. On Friday, he said his thought process at Lexington was focused on getting better.

“So I just went to the gym every day, worked out,” he said. “Indeed, for me, whatever happens will happen, and I will be ready for it.”

What’s next for Sharp, Kentucky?

Sharp was seen as a possible top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, which is led by Paolo Bankero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith – many expect them to finish in the top three in some order. After that, no one can guess, and only one team will be willing to risk getting a high draft pick for an unproven Sharp to leave the board early.

His unique circumstances — basically a transition from high school to the NBA with no real basketball in between — have been the subject of countless draft thoughts over the past couple of months.

On the one hand, there is a huge potential that has led him to become the No. 1 rookie in his class. It won’t be a surprise if he turns out to be the best player in this draft class.

On the other hand, Sharpe hasn’t played an organized game of basketball in front of NBA decision makers since he faced high school competition at the Nike Peach Jam last summer. His peers in that draft class have completed full seasons of college basketball or played in professional leagues.

He acknowledged this at a meeting with reporters on Friday.

“I feel like it’s some kind of mystery,” Sharpe said. “Just because I haven’t played in about a year. The last game was in high school, so I feel like there is curiosity and mystery for me. But like I said, I’m just in the gym. Get ready.”

Among the national layouts that have been updated in the last couple of days, The Sporting News predicts Sharp to be 5th overall, ESPN placed him 8th, and CBS Sports placed him 10th.

Meanwhile, Kentucky will enter the 2022-23 season with a Sharpe-sized hole in the roster.

Rather than showing lottery talent predicted to be produced immediately – Calipari said Sharp could be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, remember – British coaches will need to figure out how their backcourt rotation will work. .

Starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler is back and will be joined by five-star combo guard Cason Wallace, a top ten rookie in the 2022 class. Sharpe’s level of pure talent is unsurpassed, but Kentucky has brought in shooting guard Antonio Reeves – Illinois’ top scorer last season – to deliver an attacking perimeter shot. Sharpened shooting guard CJ Fredrik, a transfer from Iowa who missed last season with an injury, is also expected to be healthy and make his UK debut this season.

There’s a lot of talent and versatility in this Kentucky backcourt — along with Chris Livingston and Jacob Toppin, two promising forwards who can play on the perimeter — but a player like Sharp could take the Wildcats to the next level.

With the current Cats on campus preparing for next season, Sharp travels the country and meets with NBA teams. The next step will be a draft on Thursday night. And in a few months, Sharp will finally be on the court.

“Of course, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I don’t play – it’s hard because as a basketball player I feel like you want to go outside, support your guys, play with teammates and all that, compete.

“But I don’t think it’s really going to be too hard for me. Simply because I have been competing for a long time.”

About an hour after Sharp spoke to reporters Friday afternoon, Wheeler and Reeves were in the media room at the Memorial Coliseum, looking forward to the Wildcats’ 2022-23 season. There, a returning British point guard asked a question about Sharpe and what impression he had made in his short time at Lexington.

He described the likely lottery pick as a “quirky athlete” – a player who can pass, shoot and create chances for himself in almost any situation. And from Wheeler’s point of view, there doesn’t seem to be any hard feelings towards the young player who ended up choosing a different path to his NBA goal.

“Shaydon can do anything,” Wheeler said. “Shaedon is a great teammate. If you come here, you are a great teammate. And that’s what he’s first. He was the first to celebrate with us. When someone did something bad, he also picked us first. … It never felt like he wasn’t part of the team.”

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