Shaedon Sharpe declares for 2022 NBA Draft: Former No. 1 recruit heads to pros after joining Wildcats midyear

Shaedon Sharpe declares for 2022 NBA Draft: Former No. 1 recruit heads to pros after joining Wildcats midyear

Kentucky freshman and former five-star prospect Shaedon Sharpe is declaring for — and expected to remain in — the 2022 NBA Draft, according to CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. Once rated as the top recruit for the 2022 class, Sharpe reclassified to 2021 and enrolled at UK at the midyear point in January, but didn’t see any game time.

Sharpe’s case has been one of considerable interest in Lexington and beyond in recent months because of its significance and impact in the landscape of college hoops and the draft. Despite never playing a minute for the Wildcats this past season, he could have been a true difference-maker on their 2022 roster — one with real title hopes — next to five-star signees Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston, as well as returning big man Oscar Tshiebwe. In his reported decision to leave for the NBA, though, he’s likely locked in as a top-10 pick with the potential to upend the top of the draft.

Sharpe was fabulous in his last competitive environment, averaging 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game on the Nike EYBL circuit as a high school senior. Sharpe led the event in points scored and finished in the top five in made 3s. At 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds and only 18 years old, his talents and potential made him the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class before his reclassification and subsequent UK enrollment. He eventually settled in the recruiting rankings as the third overall prospect behind Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren (the projected No. 1 pick) and Duke’s Paolo Banchero (the projected No. 2 pick).

For months, Sharpe and his family have maintained publicly that he would return to school in 2022, but the opportunity to be a clear top-10 pick — even if not the No. 1 overall pick — is a pretty appealing one to turn down. That would make sense for him in his situation. His game, particularly as a scorer and creator, is one that is hard to come by in any draft, much less this one. Here’s what 247Sports’ Eric Bossi said of him last year after evaluating him:

A product of Canada, Sharpe is an explosive athlete with a nose for the rim. He loves to catch, face and is tough to stop because of an electric first step and his ability to get downhill, into the lane and then finish around the rim. Over the last year, Sharpe has improved tremendously as a ball handler, pull-up jump shooter and shot maker from beyond the three point line. The improved ball handling has allowed him to be much more creative as a scorer and playmaker for others. Sharpe has long arms, moves well laterally and has all of the tools to develop into a player who is just as disruptive on the defensive end of the floor as he is on offense.

Because of Sharpe’s consistency in maintaining publicly that he would return to Kentucky, we have refrained from ranking him in the CBS Sports Top 60 NBA Draft Big Board. That will change now. He’ll be slotted fifth overall on our Big Board behind Jaden Ivey, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith, lurking all the while as a real threat to challenge for the long-perceived top four of this class.

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