Updated: May 16, 2022
A lot has happened this afternoon and I'm just going to try to piece together how we got to this point. I'm sure you've seen the reports from this morning that mid-year enrollee, Shaedon Sharpe, former No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2022 before reclassifying to the class of 2021, has declared for the NBA Draft after arriving at Kentucky a semester early this past January, and is reportedly leaving his name in, officially making him a 'none and done' at Kentucky, tallying in zero total minutes for the university.
Before I get into my explanation of what has happened, lets break down his the timeline of all of this first.
December 17, 2020: UK offers Shaedon Sharpe
June 18, 2021: Shaedon Sharpe takes an official visit to UK
July 27, 2021: Shaedon releases Top 10, UK makes the cut
August 29, 2021: Shaedon Sharpe visits UK for the second time
September 7, 2021: Shaedon Sharpe commits to UK
November 10, 2021: Shaedon Sharpe signs LOI to UK
January 1, 2022: Shaedon Sharpe enrolls at UK
In the fall of '21, Kentucky gets a commitment from the top player in the entire recruiting class, showing the entire nation that John Calipari isn't "washed up" in the recruiting game after losing out on former major recruiting targets Zion Williamson (Duke), James Wiseman (Memphis) and Jalen Duren (Memphis) in consecutive battles. Many of credible scouts and coaches all said that Sharpe was just too good for High School basketball and needed to re-class and make the jump to the next level and stop wasting his time at Dream City Christian Academy. So, he did. He made the announcement he would reclassify to the class of 2021, and enroll early at the University of Kentucky in the spring semester of 2022, and train with the program for the spring and into the summer. That's when things finally started to feel real. We had him coming to campus, locked up, signed to the school, and no other program or the NBA could steal him from us at least until the offseason (in terms of the NBA in specific).
There was a lot of concern as to whether or not he'd come here for the spring and then leave in the summer for the NBA Draft, never playing a minute at Kentucky and literally using it as a stepping stone to get to the league. While that was a fair concern, it was shot down before he ever made it to campus by his family, his camp, and the people closest to him who knew exactly what the truth was. They were adamant that it was not the case, that he would "100% be playing for Kentucky in the fall of 2022" and through the 2022-23 season. They just wanted him to train in Lexington for a semester as well as the summer, and then go through his first season of college ball learning under John Calipari, despite already being projected as a top 5-8 draft pick coming out of High School. While that logically didn't make any sense to a lot of people (because if you're projected that high in the draft why would you ever stay in college to 'prove' to the NBA that you deserve to be drafted that high?), his family over and over again kept telling the coaching staff and the media that he was staying in school, so of course, you have to take their word for it. They doubled-down on it multiple times, which today makes all of this look that much more worse.
We're now in January of 2022. Shaedon Sharpe officially enrolls into school in the first week of the new year, conducting individual workouts which later became practicing with the current team. It was a huge deal and the teams social media team made multiple posts about it, including Shaedon announcing that he was here.
The excitement boils, and fans cannot wait to watch him in the following season. Five days later, Kentucky plays a road game in Nashville at Vanderbilt, and Shaedon is spotted in warm-ups with the team, warming up, showing of his insane athleticism with this dunk, teasing fans for what's to come.
The next morning, John Calipari (for the first time) opens up the opportunity of Shaedon Sharpe possibly playing this season. While he gave it very little chance, this was the first time we had heard of such.
"You never know," is what we were left to mesmerize over. And if that wasn't enough to get us out of our seats, his pregame dunk the next night was.
We weren't entirely sure if Shaedon would even play in the spring semester because that never really was the plan, at least that's what the message was before his arrival. The plan was to redshirt, train here and play next year. But as all things go, rumors came about and many started to believe he might try to play this season if possible. If he was going to play, it kept getting delayed because he was new to the practices, playbook and roster, and he needed to catch up to Kentucky's system before anything. So, that all stayed up in the air for some time, with uncertainty of how much truth it actually held.
Adding gasoline to the fire, the school announced just two days later that he would officially wear the No. 21 at Kentucky, sparking interests even more.
To keep it all going, not even 24 hours after that, John Calipari went all Mr. Promoter in his weekly press conference and radio shows previewing that week's game, that fans needed to get to the arena early if they wanted to see Shaedon Sharpe warm-up on the court before the game. "Let me say this to our fans. Get there early... And, we'll make sure Shaedon is on the court working out, and you could say, 'I saw Shaedon.'"
I mean, at that point, how could you not expect something was going to happen? We've never before seen John Calipari hyping a player up like this, so how could you not think he was going to suit up in the season at some point?
Well, Vanderbilt was in town that weekend, the same team we first saw him warm-up against the week before - and a team that Kentucky dominated for the majority of that game - so you'd picture this a good opportunity to throw him in there and see how he does, but Kentucky surprisingly struggled that game and never got a comfortable enough lead to chance it, so Calipari never put him in. Little did we know, that was as close as he would ever come to playing at UK.
Six days later, news breaks that Shaedon Sharpe had reportedly become eligible for the '22 NBA Draft (which was always in the question due to the confusing Draft rules concerning how long a player has to be removed from High School, and some age requirements, etc.), which was confirming news to many at that point who were unsure. That situation was very confusing to many, even NBA scouts, but it got broken down and explained in which I wrote about here if you needed some more clarity on it all.
John Calipari addressed it almost immediately, saying, "No, it doesn't change anything. He plans on being here next year. He's watching whether I play him or not this year, if he's ready to be able to be in games I'll put him in. But, he's a great kid, and he's doing well, and he is going to make practices even better. He's only been here two weeks. At the end of the day, you know I'm going to be for the kids, that's how I do this thing."
Things remained the same for about one more week until Shaedon was seen pulling up to practice in a new Porsche, embracing what the life of a (potential) UK star in the NIL world was like.
Practicing with the team, getting multiple endorsements, being projected a high pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and being one of the most talked about college athletes all across the country all while not playing any games for the school, didn't sit right with a lot of fans. The thing that made it worse was that John Calipari was hyping his court appearance up, also that he was literally living on campus and sitting on the bench during games, but still wasn't getting any game time. I could see why a lot of fans were upset, but at the same time, it was never a for sure thing he would play in the spring semester from the jump. It was just a rising rumor (with a lot of backing to it) that had yet to come to light.
A little under two weeks later, John Calipari came out and addressed the news in a social media post, announcing that Shaedon Sharpe would officially not be suiting up for Kentucky this season.
“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," said the Head Coach. After the following game the next night, coincidentally a loss, it was Cal's first media opportunity since announce the news, and so of course, he was asked all about it.
After listening to his explanation of it, it came off to everyone that he still expected Shaedon to be at Kentucky the next season, despite being eligible for the draft, being projected high, and not playing this season. He even went to as far as projecting him to be the No. 1 overall pick in the '23 NBA Draft. “This kid comes back, he's the number one draft pick. How can I say I know what the number one draft pick looks like? ‘Because I’ve had four!’”
He went further to say that, "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. He is committed to bettering himself and our team in practice this year and being better prepared to lead us next season." He reconfirmed on February 8th that Shaedon came to Kentucky to "practice, sit out, and get ready for the following year."
From there on out, it was a done deal. The message that Shaedon Sharpe playing this season "was never the plan" was back in the forefront, closed, signed and sealed.
Things died out for the rest of the season new wise, and fans voiced their opinions the rest of the way of their frustration with the whole situation. Now, we have hit the today point of the Shaedon era.
On April 21st, three days before the deadline of when players have to enter their name into the 2022 Draft, Sham Charania, Senior lead NBA Insider for The Athletic, broke the news that Shaedon Sharpe was going to enter his name into the draft, keep his name in and not return to Kentucky for next season. After all season long of his family and his inner circle repeatedly telling the UK coaching staff that he would absolutely be here next year had seemed to have fallen through. Have they been lying to the staff this entire time? Did things change recently? What could have changed? Because he's been projected this high in the draft since before arriving to campus. So I don't see what exactly could have turned things around for their decision.
ESPN's Jonathan Givony announced the news that he spoke to someone from Shaedon Sharpe's high school, Dream City Christian, and they confirmed that he actually graduated in May of 2021. What? Was he not allegedly in school last November before finishing up "early" and coming to Kentucky in January? And now the school is saying that he was graduated seven months prior to arriving to Kentucky? Something is not adding up whatsoever. I believe the school made this announcement, whether true to not, to secure Sharpe's eligibility in the draft this June. The NBA can't start determining if you're eligible or not until you officially declare, so the timing seems about right, but still, none of this making sense at all.
As I'm writing this, Shaedon Sharpe has just released a statement regarding the news.
"Through discussions with Coach Cal, my parents, my mentor, and long consideration and prayer I’ve decided to enter to my name in the NBA draft while maintaining my college eligibility. I’m not sure what my future holds beyond today, but I do know that I have to take this next step to officially go through the process to test the waters and receive feedback," sums up the post he put out. Well, this changes everything, kind of. This now gives him the opportunity to return to Kentucky, unlike the announcement this morning saying he'd remain in the draft. While I don't believe he wants to return, I think this just gives him the back up plan to incase the league rules him in eligible. Players have until June 1st to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft and return to school, so we won't likely know much until closer to that date.
John Calipari responded to his statement, saying, “Shaedon and his family told me that he intends to put his name in the draft while retaining his eligibility, and they have my full support to test the process just as every player does. Shaedon has been a great teammate and has handled everything that comes with being a college student-athlete the way he should. Since he arrived on our campus, he’s been an integral part of our program and he’s already registered for summer and fall classes, but we support this decision to explore every option and make the best decision for his future based on all of the information he can receive.”
This has been the weirdest recruitment/player experience in quite some time. There is a lot to figure out and someone to blame for it all. I don't think it's right to blame Shaedon necessarily, because at that age he has so many people in his ear advising him and trying to steer him certain directions. I also don't think you blame John Calipari either. Yeah, he deserves some backlash for hyping Shaedon up all season if he didn't fully know if he'd play here or not, but, at the same time trying to play devils advocate, if he and his staff was being told the entire time that he was returning in the summer then what else could he have said? It's not his fault he got lied to if that is the case. As of now, I'm putting the blame on Shaedon's circle of people that he trusts - his family and his former coaches/trainers that are still involved. They're the ones making this so confusing to all parties involved, and if they keep it up, could wind up creating an awful image for him to Kentucky fans and stepping further onto Calipari's relationship with the fanbase which isn't neccarsily in the best position at the moment anyways...