Orlando Magic 2022 NBA Draft Preview: Shaedon Sharpe is a promising mystery

Shaedon Sharpe sat out the year for Kentucky but could still be a top pick for the draft. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Shaedon Sharpe sat out the year for Kentucky but could still be a top pick for the draft. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports /

Shaedon Sharpe was the number one player in the class of 2022 before he decided to reclassify to 2021. After the reclassification, he ended up being third in the recruiting rankings behind Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero.

There was a ton of promise and a ton of talent in this high school star.

But then the tape stops.

For Sharpe, there were no games to play or reputation to build. He enrolled early at Kentucky after reclassifying and the machinery of the NCAA took over. The governing body for college basketball never cleared him and Kentucky did not want to risk playing him and have him become ineligible midway through the season.

They shut him down before the season started. And so the debate began.

NBA scouts are split on Sharpe. Some like the potential he has to offer but others are weary of the bust potential he also brings. Most, if not all, of the concerns stem from Sharpe missing out the whole year. He has not played organized basketball outside of Kentucky practices in a year and half.

And since Sharpe declared for the NBA Draft back in April, scouts have been scrambling to figure out this intriguing prospect.

So the question remains, who is Shaedon Sharpe?

Shaedon Sharpe might be the best prospect in this NBA Draft. But his sitting out the year because of the NCAA’s machinery leaves him a giant mystery entering this draft.

For starters, Shaedon Sharpe is a 19-year-old shooting guard hailing from London, Ontario, Canada. He helped Team Canada win a silver medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championships.

On that team, he was the third-leading scorer with 13 points per game on 68% shooting from the field. He played alongside other top prospects Caleb Houstan and Ryan Nembhard.

Sharpe did not join Houstan and Nembhard in representing Canada at the 2021 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup.

In his high school career, he bounced around a bit, moving to the United States in his sophomore year.

For his freshman year, he played for H.B Beal Secondary School in Canada. There, he led his school to an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association Championship. He then moved to Bel Aire, Kans., for his sophomore season to play for powerhouse Sunrise Christian Academy where he averaged just 6 points per game.

For his junior year, he transferred again. This time to Dream City Christian School in Glendale, Ariz., where he took on the biggest role of his high school career. In 12 games he averaged 21.4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1 block per game in his junior year. Sharpe shot an impressive 60.8-percent from the field but only shot 18.8-percent (3 of 16) from three.

Sharpe did not gain much recognition prior to his junior year. He was originally a 4-star recruit during his time at Sunrise Christian Academy

For most of his high school career, Sharpe was not on many people’s radar. But his ranking soared after a strong performance in the Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League, widely considered one of the top AAU circuits in the country).

In the league, he averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He also shot 36.4-percent (28 of 77) from three-point range which gives scouts comfort despite his poor shooting when he played for Dream City.

By the time his junior year rolled around, he was ranked top of his class by Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports.

But in November Sharpe decided to reclassify and enroll at Kentucky a semester early. He played his last high school game which was nationally televised on ESPN against Prolific Prep on Oct. 17, 2021.

The plan was to redshirt the rest of the year and work on bettering his game for the 2023 college basketball season.

And despite Kentucky fans clamoring for him, coach John Calipari maintained he would not play him during the 2022 season. The NCAA offered little relief when they could not clear him to play.

John Calipari had done this same thing with Hamidou Diallo back in 2017 so it was not unheard of. And despite Sharpe’s obvious potential, it was widely considered he would be back at Kentucky, essentially playing what would have been his freshman college season anyway.

Also, the 2022 NBA Draft was not even in the realm of possibility because it was previously thought that Sharpe was ineligible, since he wouldn’t be one year removed from high school.

But, adding to the confusion, Sharpe was able to show he graduated in May 2021 thanks to his play on the high school prep circuit rather than playing for a traditional high school.

On the prep circuit, every game in the fall is considered a scrimmage and does not count against the regular-season schedule.

This satisfied the NBA’s rule that all domestic prospects be a year removed from high school and made him eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft. A couple of months ago, he officially declared for the draft and is now being projected to go in the top-five to mid-lottery range.

Now the question is what do scouts make of his game and how much credence can they put into his high school tape?

Sharpe measured at 6-foot-5-inches tall, weighing 198 pounds with a notable 6-foot-11.5 wingspan and 8-foot-7.5 standing reach at the NBA Draft Combine. He has great size and athleticism for an NBA wing.

Offense comes easy to him. Scouts describe him as a bouncy athlete with elite ability to play through contact and finish at the rim.

When Sharpe’s outside shot is falling, he will be able to drive by defenders who play up close on him. And he has fade-away and step-back jumper for easy shot creation when the three is not falling.

He will have to work on consistency with his jump shot but his shooting form is NBA caliber so there is hope that he will adjust quickly.

With a long wingspan, Sharpe could also turn into a good defender if he puts his mind to it. Though that type of intensity has yet to be seen.

Areas that he will need to improve on include his ball-handling, his shot selection and his quickness off the dribble.

The mystery surrounding Sharpe lends to his boom or bust outlook. Before he plays in summer league, the last time he would have hit the court for a game would be in high school.

The history of players making a similar jump like Sharpe is more common than you might think though. In recent drafts, there have been players who decided to skip college to train and others who were five-year high school players eligible for the draft.

But they typically played — whether that was opting to go to the G-League or overseas for their gap year. There are few players who simply sat out a whole year.

Mitchell Robinson dropped out of Western Kentucky to train for the NBA after he could not keep up his grades to stay eligible. Anfernee Simmons was a five-year high school basketball player who decided to skip college altogether. And Darius Bazley skipped out on Syracuse and the G-League to train for the NBA.

But for every success story, there are other players who struggle to make the transition such as Thon Maker and Jalen Lecque.

Sharpe’s success will mainly depend on where he ends up.

If he is drafted to an organization with patience and a good development program for their young players, then he’ll blossom into the player many think he can be.

Next. Draft Preview: Debunking myths about Chet Holmgren. dark

But the potential is undoubtedly there. He is someone who is front and center on draft boards even for teams at the top. And everyone is just trying to get an idea of who this guy before they sit down to make their pick.