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Former No. 1-ranked high school basketball player Shaedon Sharpe declared for the 2022 NBA draft in June but is maintaining his college eligibility, he said in a tweet Thursday morning.
"These last four months at Kentucky have been nothing short of amazing," Sharpe said. "To have Coach Cal and the rest of the coaching staff, my teammates/brothers, and the Big Blue Nation welcome me into the family has been a true blessing."
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard didn't play a single minute at Kentucky, after joining the squad in January, and said on numerous occasions that he planned on coming back for the 2022-23 season to play for head coach John Calipari.
That all changed in late January when it was revealed Sharpe would be eligible for the 2022 NBA draft, regardless if he played this past college season or not.
This is where the confusion set in for Kentucky fans.
Sharpe played his last high school basketball game for Dream City Christian (Arizona) on Oct. 17, 2021, in Las Vegas. It was a nationally televised game on ESPN against Prolific Prep out of California. At the time, Sharpe was playing as a fifth-year senior, after completing all class requirements in May.
The high school prep circuit differs from a scholastic high school basketball in that every game played in the fall is more or less counted as a scrimmage and doesn't count against the regular season schedule. That's why Sharpe was allowed to play, despite the games being on national television.
His arrival at Kentucky came with a lot of hype and fans were eager to see him lace up for the Wildcats. The notion of "will he" or "won't he play" during the second semester was a hot topic. Calipari put it to rest on Feb. 7 stating in a tweet, "After talking with Shaedon and his parents, we want to end all of the speculation by again saying that he will not play for us this season."
Calipari then fueled more speculation that Sharpe would return for the 2022-23 season, telling reporters after a game the following day, "If this kid comes back, he's the No. 1 draft pick. How can I say that? Because I've had four!"
Once Sharpe, 18, was eligible for this year's draft, NBA scouts and front-office executives flocked to Lexington for practice, knowing it might be the only time to get eyes on Sharpe.
The narrative of Sharpe returning in the fall should have been put to rest when he continuously started to show up as a top-10 prospect in NBA mock drafts across the board.
The five-star prospect averaged 21.4 points, six rebounds and three assists in his final high school season. He helped Canada earn the silver medal in the 2019 FIBA U16 Americas Championship, averaging 13 points per game. Last summer, Sharpe dominated Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League, averaging 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per outing. He's one of the best players in transition, has incredible pace to his game and a solid 3-point jumper.
There's enough there to project what he's going to be at the pro level, and he doesn't need a year in college to prove it.
"I have to take this next step to officially go through the process, to test the waters and receive feedback," Sharpe said.
Sharpe's current draft range is anywhere from fourth to seventh overall, and he's already started to give a glimpse of the work he's putting in during the pre-draft process.
Sharpe's time at Kentucky could have undoubtedly been handled better, but this decision shouldn't be a shock to anyone.
Calipari and his coaching staff knew what they were getting when they allowed Sharpe to sit second semester and work on his game, behind closed doors in practice. He might not have played a single game, but he'll still be considered a product of Kentucky and Calipari, one of the best to ever get players to the league.