WASHINGTON – Shaedon Sharpe’s basketball journey from London, Ontario, to Glendale, Arizona, will continue next year in Lexington, Kentucky, after the No. 1 player in Arizona made a verbal commitment Tuesday to the University of Kentucky.
The Dream City Christian senior made the eagerly anticipated announcement Tuesday afternoon in a highlight-laden video on social media in which he thanked family, teammates and coaches before declaring for Kentucky.
Sharpe, one of the top recruits in the nation, chose Kentucky over finalists Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma State and the NBA G-League, winnowed from a top 10 list that also included Arizona State, among others.
But the choice of Kentucky was not unexpected. Sharpe had visited the school in July and spoke highly of the program. 247Sports said in its latest Crystal Ball projections Tuesday that Kentucky was a 100% lock for Sharpe, who told Sports Illustrated this summer that “Kentucky was great.”
“I just liked going to the practices and seeing their (Kentucky’s) style. I feel like I could really rock out in their system because of how they operate,” Sharpe told Sports Illustrated’s Jason Jordan. “I loved Arizona’s campus; I go to school in Arizona, so the weather is great, but I really liked everything about it.”
The Dream City Eagle becomes the first commit of Kentucky’s 2022 class.
Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s national recruiting director for high school basketball, sees Sharpe as an impact player “from day one” at the college level.
“Like any young player, they’ll come in with a big reputation, then they’ll have to learn how to defend, because they all get recruited on their offensive giftedness for the most part or their athleticism,” Biancardi said.
“He’s going to learn how to continue to get open, that’s going to be a big thing,” he said. “Because in college, you have scouting-report defense, which doesn’t allow you to do what you do best.”
Kentucky was in on Sharpe early, but ultimately it was the relationships he built with NBA stars Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander that Biancardi thinks sold him on Big Blue Nation.
“In recruiting, it’s what your peers tell you about a place that matters sometimes more than what the coaches say,” Biancardi said. “And obviously they had two tremendous experiences at Kentucky and I think that played a factor.”
Sharpe played travel ball with Uplay Canada, the same AAU program where Gilgeous-Alexander played in his teens.
There isn’t anything sneaky about Sharpe’s athleticism. You can’t watch his highlights without seeing at least one full-extension dunk, with a leaping vertical and wide wingspan that makes him a multilevel scorer.
His 3-point shot was an area he told Jordan he wanted to work on this summer. He has a nimble step-back to create distance from defenders and gets the most out of his hops off spot-up jumpers.
ESPN moved the combo-guard to No. 1 among current seniors after Jalen Duren of IMG Academy reclassified up a grade to commit to Memphis, and Sharpe had a standout performance at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Peach Jam event in July. 247Sports has him as the fourth-best senior.
— Shaedon Sharpe (@ShaedonSharpe) August 8, 2021
Sharpe finished Peach Jam with 21.6 points per game, third-highest of the event. The run was buoyed by a combined 59 points in his team’s two losses to Pro Skills and Indy Heat. By the end of the week, Sharpe was “virtually unguardable with his special blend of quickness, athleticism and three-level scoring ability,” Jordan wrote.
After seeing limited time as a sophomore at Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kansas, where he averaged 6 points per game, Sharpe transferred to Dream City Christian where he put up 25 points a night as a junior. By the time he transferred, 247Sports had him as the No. 2 Canadian prospect, behind future Sun Devil commit Enoch Boakye.
The two paired on Team Canada for the FIBA U16 Americas Championship, where Sharpe averaged a solid 13 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 21.6 minutes per game in Team Canada’s silver medal run. That’s when Sharpe started drawing serious college attention.
Sharpe is just the third member of the class of 2022 in Arizona to formally commit so far, per 247Sports. With his college plans set, Biancardi says Sharpe can take this year to refine elements of his game.
“Make sure that he handles the ball as a secondary playmaker, not just the shooting guard,” he said. “His ability to find the open man is good, but he’s going to have to look to the open man even more because he may see double-teams this year in high school.
“He’s got to make sure that he’s not just a one-dimensional player, which is, he’s an elite scorer,” Biancardi said. “He’s just got to make sure that his passing and ball handling helps him on the court as much as his jump shot is.”