Why didn’t Shaedon Sharpe play for Kentucky? How decision to skip college impacts NBA Draft lottery

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Shaedon Sharpe was expected to be one of the most exciting players in college basketball during the 2021-22 season.

Sharpe, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2022 class, reclassified into the 2021 class and opted to attend Kentucky over offers from Kansas and the NBA G League, among others. He ultimately chose to attend Kentucky and was expected to be a dynamic playmaker for the Wildcats.

Instead, he didn’t play at all.

MORE: Best prop bets for the 2022 NBA Draft, including where Shaedon Sharpe lands

Sharpe sat out the entirety of his freshman season and never got into a game for John Calipari’s Wildcats. Then, on April 21, 2022, Sharpe officially declared for the 2022 NBA Draft. He remained in the player pool and guaranteed that he would never play a game at the college level.

Sharpe’s lack of action in college is now shrouding him in mystery ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft. And the, 6-foot-6, 19-year-old prospect from Ontario understands why teams would be a bit wary in their evaluations of him.

“I feel like there is mystery just because I haven’t played for about a year now. Last game was high school, so I feel like there is curiosity and mystery with me,” Sharpe said during a pre-draft news conference on Friday. “But like I said before, [I’m] just in the gym, getting ready.”

Because of that mystery, Sharpe’s answer to the question about his playing time was always expected to be critical. And on Friday, he explained exactly why it was in his best interest not to play for the Wildcats and go straight for the NBA.

MORE: Shaedon Sharpe 2022 NBA Draft prospect profile

Why didn’t Shaedon Sharpe play at Kentucky?

As Sharpe explained during Friday’s news conference, he put a lot of thought into deciding whether he wanted to play at Kentucky or not. He consulted his coaches and his family as he weighed his options.

“I did talk to [coach John Calipari] about it, my coach, trainer, even my parents,” Sharpe said. “But at the end of the day, it was my decision to not play.”

So, the decision was made of Sharpe’s own volition. And for him, it all boiled down to one thing: he knew he could still get better at basketball without playing.

“My thought process as an athlete, as a basketball player, was really just getting better,” Sharpe said. “So I was just in the gym every day, working out. Really for me, whatever happened, I’d be ready for it.”

Sharpe believes that he made progress during his lone year at Kentucky. So, he is more than comfortable with his decision to sit out the 2021-22 college basketball season.

“Like I said before, everything happens for a reason. So I really don’t regret [not] playing,” Sharpe said. “I mean, I’m working with NBA teams now. So I guess I did something right.”

Indeed, Sharpe is getting plenty of attention from NBA teams. He will certainly be selected early in the 2022 NBA Draft; it’s just a matter of when.

Shaedon Sharpe draft stock, mock draft projections

Almost every current mock draft has Sharpe listed as a lottery pick, and a majority of those have Sharpe pegged as a top-10 pick.

SN’s Kyle Irving has Sharpe going to the Pistons with the No. 5 overall selection in his latest mock. Here’s what he said about the Kentucky product’s potential fit in Detroit:

Sharpe is a bit of a mystery man after declaring for the draft without playing a single game for Kentucky, but his elite scoring ability and leaping athleticism are a match made in heaven next to a playmaker of Cunningham’s caliber. Sharpe fills the void for a shot-creator in Detroit to round out an impressive and young offensive trio alongside Cunningham and sharpshooter Saddiq Bey.

MORE: Click here to see SN’s full 2022 NBA Mock Draft

Even if Sharpe doesn’t go within the top five, it doesn’t seem like he will last long after that. But if he slips out of the top 10, his playing time — or lack thereof — may be to blame.

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