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Why didn't top NBA draft prospect Shaedon Sharpe play college basketball for Kentucky?

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top-rated NBA draft prospects is Kentucky freshman Shaedon Sharpe. But he never played a second of college basketball.

Although he was healthy, he didn’t see the floor, even when the John Calipari-led Wildcats played in March Madness. Sharpe, who is from Canada, was ranked as the top overall recruit in the class of 2022. However, he opted to graduate early from high school and enroll in Kentucky for the spring semester.

When that high-impact decision was made, the reporting at the time suggested that Sharpe (unlike Emoni Bates) would actually become eligible for the 2022 NBA draft.

The 6-foot-6 guard was enrolled at Dream City Christian in Arizona before Kentucky. Sharpe will turn 19 years old on May 30, and the draft is on June 23, which means he will be one year out of high school and meet the age eligibility requirements to apply for draft eligibility.

Even though Sharpe was practicing and working out with the team, Calipari was on the record saying “there has never been a plan” to play Sharpe.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz wrote an excellent outline detailing why Sharpe decided to turn pro:

“Talking to NBA teams, they are all preparing for Sharpe ultimately being in the draft, and say they’ll be surprised if he isn’t. Historically speaking, 99.9% of players in his situation (projected lottery picks, likely top-10 picks) end up declaring, because there’s simply too much risk in going back to school, risking poor play or injury, and seeing their stock fall.”

Sharpe averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 36.1% on 3-pointers on the Nike EYBL circuit in 2021, per Cerebro Sports.

He added 18.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game when competing in The Grind Session. Sharpe was also an excellent contributor for Canada when he participated in FIBA youth tournaments.

In the most recent showings we have seen from Sharpe, he was dominant. If he came out of the gates slow (e.g. see: Jaden Hardy, Patrick Baldwin Jr., or any number of would-be top NBA draft picks whose on-court performance hampered their draft stock), he could risk that firm place he has as a projected lottery pick.

It feels counterintuitive, but sometimes, the best thing a player can do for his draft stock is literally nothing at all; his mystique could potentially entice an NBA team.

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