UK guard Shaedon Sharpe leaving for NBA draft without playing a game for Wildcats:

LEXINGTON – No coach is more closely tied to one-and-done NBA draft picks than John Calipari.

Now, Kentucky basketball’s Hall of Fame coach is left to explain how his program progressed to a none-and-done player. According to reports from: The Athletic: and: ESPN:UK freshman guard Shaedon Sharpe will declare for the draft and ending his Kentucky career without playing a single game for the Wildcats.

The former No. 1-ranked prospect in the high school class of 2022, Sharpe graduated a semester early to enroll at Kentucky with the intention of only practicing this season before playing in 2022-23. After reports surfaced that Sharpe was eligible for the 2022 NBA draft, Calipari and company publicly flirted with the idea of ​​him playing this season but eventually announced they were sticking to the plan for Sharpe to only practice with the team.

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When skeptics wondered if Sharpe was sitting out to protect his 2022 draft stock, Calipari and Sharpe’s mentor insisted Sharpe still planned to return to UK next season.

Even after injuries affected the effectiveness of Kentucky’s backcourt late in the season, Sharpe remained on Kentucky’s bench.

“I think that was what was best for him is how we did it,” Calipari said when asked about Sharpe after Kentucky’s shocking NCAA Tournament loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s. “Would he have been a good player this year? Yeah, he’d been pretty good. He’d been pretty good. But he joined us midseason. Trying to get him up to all the stuff that we were doing was hard.

“Then it came a point late, maybe we could should have him in there. We just, you know, together, chose, let’s just wait.”

Following National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe’s announcement that he was returning to Kentucky Wednesday, some UK fans latched onto hope that Sharpe might return for next season too, grasping at the possibility he was not actually eligible for the draft because he did not graduate high school until after the 2021-22 NBA season started. However, ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony reported Thursday morning that Sharpe’s high school, Dream City Christian in Arizona, had confirmed Sharpe actually graduated in May 2021:.

Where is Shaedon Sharpe projected to be picked in 2022 NBA draft?

Kentucky player Shaedon Sharpe warms up before the game against Mississippi State January 25, 2022.

Kentucky player Shaedon Sharpe warms up before the game against Mississippi State January 25, 2022.

Despite the mystery surrounding his game, Sharpe is widely projected as a likely top-10 pick if he remains in the 2022 draft class.

ESPN and Bleacher Report project him at No. 6 and No. 7 respectively in their most recent mock drafts. The Athletic and Sports Illustrated did not include Sharpe in their most recent mocks since he had publicly signaled he planned to return to school, but ranked him at No. 5 and No. 7 respectively on their top eligible prospects list for the 2022 draft.

“It’s just really, ridiculously hard to find guys who are 6-foot-6 with 7-foot wingspans who are monster athletes in terms of balance and explosiveness and are legitimate pull-up shooting threats,” The Athletic draft analyst Sam Vecenie wrote of Sharpe. “There would obviously be much more variance in where he ends up getting taken on draft night, if he were to declare.”

While Sharpe did not play for Kentucky this season, NBA scouts did see him in person during the 2021 Nike EYBL season where his performances led analysts to push him to the top prospect in the 2022 class.

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How will Kentucky basketball replace Shaedon Sharpe on 2022-23 roster?

There is an argument to be made that Sharpe’s departure does not drastically change Kentucky’s outlook for next season because it is difficult to say you must replace a player who never actually appeared in a game.

However, Calipari and company certainly counted on Sharpe’s elite scoring ability being a part of the 2022-23 roster when they were recruiting 2022 high school prospects. This late in the cycle, there is simply no other guard with Sharpe’s upside available as a like-for-like replacement.

Even without Sharpe in the fold, Kentucky should add two consensus top-10 prospects in the 2022 high school class to its backcourt: five-star guards Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston. Both are elite talents but neither was viewed as having quite the same upside as Sharpe. Now, Wallace and Livingston will need to carry an even larger portion of the load for the Wildcats.

Former Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick, who won a Kentucky state championship in high school with Covington Catholic, has announced he will return to the UK after missing the entire 2021-22 season with a hamstring injury. Frederick is an elite 3-point shooter when healthy, but he has to be considered a question mark coming off the injury.

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With Davion Mintz and Kellan Grady having played their last college game, Kentucky could add another transfer guard to its backcourt with an emphasis on 3-point shooting ability. No transfer guard will have the same ceiling as Sharpe though. Otherwise, that player would be sticking in the NBA draft.

UK hosted Illinois State guard Antonio Reeves, who averaged 20.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 39% from 3-point range last season, for a recruiting visit over the weekend.

What happens at point guard for Kentucky could also affect the plan for replacing Sharpe. Sahvir Wheeler, the two-time SEC leader in assists, is not considered a 2022 NBA draft prospect but could still elect to start a professional career. Calipari could also decide he needs to play a less reliable style on Wheeler’s boom-or-bust nature. Wallace can play point guard, but if he is primarily used on the ball, the need for another off-ball scorer increases even more following Sharpe’s departure.

UK already lost little-used reserve wings Dontaie Allen and Bryce Hopkins to transfers this offseason. Freshman guard TyTy Washington declared for the NBA draft without maintaining his college eligibility.

Email Jon Hale at:; Follow him on Twitter at: @JonHale_CJ:.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Shaedon Sharpe: Kentucky basketball guard to declare for NBA draft:

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