Back in September, Shaedon Sharpe committed to Kentucky, instantly upgrading its backcourt for next season, but on Tuesday, the 6’5” shooting guard told Sports Illustrated that John Calipari would be reaping the benefits of his commitment ahead of schedule.
“I’m going to enroll in January,” Sharpe said. “I’m going to report down there after Christmas. I’m going to redshirt. I just want to get a head start on college basketball and train with older, bigger, stronger and better players.”
The No. 10 Wildcats open their season tonight (9:30 p.m. ET) against No. 9 Duke at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.
To the casual observer, Sharpe’s exit from the high school game may seem puzzling and abrupt, especially since he’s widely regarded as the top player in the 2022 class, but his goals have always been future-focused.
“I never cared about being No. 1 or anything like that,” Sharpe said. “I just worked hard and that came, but my goals have always been about the NBA and being the best player that I can be at that level. That’s it.”
Sharpe’s move is hardly unprecedented.
In 2017, Hamidou Diallo committed to Kentucky in January, enrolled in the same month and redshirted for the rest of the season.
“It just makes more sense to me to go play where I can elevate my game the most,” Sharpe said. “This is something I came up with, and when I told the coaches they were all in.”
Makes sense for a freak athlete, with one of the best high wire acts in high school basketball. Sharpe doubles as a gifted playmaker, who easily maneuvers into the paint to finish with authority. His blow-by ability is even more effective because defenses can’t allow him room to fire from the perimeter; not when he’s draining three-pointers at a 46% clip, his numbers while running with UPlay Canada during Nike EYBL play this past summer.
Sharpe averaged 21.6 points a game, and in his last three games at the Nike Peach Jam, he pumped in 28 points and eight rebounds a game.
The Nike EYBL and Peach Jam events are widely regarded as the most grueling grassroots summer circuits in the world.
This summer’s dominance was a carryover from a dominant season at Dream City Christian (Glendale, Ariz.) where he averaged 25.4 points, while shooting 45% from the three-point line, and 6.4 rebounds game.
When asked if he could potentially play this season, Sharpe said, “I'll do whatever the team needs, but 100% I will be at Kentucky to play next season.”
“That’s a definite for me,” Sharpe said of playing next season in Lexington. “I love everything about Kentucky, so I’m looking forward to that. The whole process coming from Canada then going to Sunrise then Dream City to now enrolling early has been long, but it’s been necessary.
"The work is what excites me; just seeing my game grow. My goal now is to get down there and get better every day. I’m gonna help the team either way because I’ll be pushing the players and they’ll be pushing me in practice. It’s a win-win for everybody.”