If you ask Dream City Christian (Ariz.) coach Kyle Weaver just how good 6-foot-5, 195-pound junior guard Shaedon Sharpe is he has a quick answer.
“He is just a phenomenal player. He’s hands down the best guard in the (20)22 class,” said Weaver. “He’s averaging 23 points per game on the best high school platform (The Grind Session) in the country. Until Kentucky offered him (a scholarship), people were uncertain and not sure about him. To me, the sky is the limit for him.”
Weaver says Sharpe’s best attribute is his efficiency. He doesn’t have to be a high volume shooter to score.
“He’s not a kid that needs 25 shots to get 25 points,” Weaver said. “He can score his 25 on 10 to 12 shots. Honestly, he is so athletic to where you really can’t describe him.”
Sharpe, who also averages 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, is ranked as the No. 2 player in Canada in the 2022 recruiting class. The London, Ontario, native played at Sunrise Christian (Kansas) last season where he averaged 13 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game before transferring to Dream City Christian this year. He jumped 70 spots to 20th overall in the 2022 recruiting class in the latest Rivals.com rankings.
“He’s a better kid than basketball player, too,” Weaver said. “Everybody on the team loves him. He’s very quiet and reserved most of the time but is a great teammate.”
Weaver still believes Sharpe, who has a 45-inch vertical jump, can be the top-ranked guard in the 2022 recruiting class by the time he graduates and more people get to see him play.
“His shooting really is phenomenal. You see his athleticism and forget what a great shooter he is,” Weaver said. “Every time the ball leaves his hand, I have 100% confidence it is going in.
“He’s a highlight reel every game. He can jump over a 7-footer to score. He can easily hit a jumper over a 6-1, 6-2 kid. He dunked over a 6-5 kid one game who is still trying to take the charge. He’s just a flat-out scorer and shoots about 44% from the 3-point line.
“He does not have to have the ball to be good, either. He doesn’t need 15 dribbles before he can take a shot. He’s fine if he doesn’t need any dribbles to get off his shot. You will never see him over dribble. His game will translate well to the NBA one day. Just his pace and way he moves is like a NBA guard already.”
Sharpe is part of the UPlay Canada travel program founded by Dwayne Washington, the same team and man that helped develop former UK standout Shai-Gilgeous Alexander. Washington had told UK assistant coach Joel Justus over a year ago to keep an eye on Sharpe.
“Having that connection to Shai gives Shaedon the beset of all worlds when it comes to who he is around,” Weaver said. “Dwayne Washington does a great job building character and developing a player through a lot of work.”
In addition to his Kentucky offer, Sharpe also has scholarship offers from Alabama, Creighton, Oregon, Illinois, Kansas, Xavier and Cincinnati.
Kentucky commit Skyy Clarke, the No. 8 player in the 2022 class, knows Sharpe and Clark’s father, Kenny, thinks they would be a “great fit” together in college.
“I know Shaedon was extremely happy when he got that UK offer,” Kenny Clark said. “Skyy is going to work on him (about Kentucky). Shaedon has a nice jumper and is a very explosive player. He just knows how to play the game.”
Sharpe has missed some games this year with an injury but Weaver says he’s still averaging around 25 points per game.
“We just had to make sure he was healthy at the end of the season,” Weaver said. “He’s special, really special. He’s just 17 and he is going to put on weight like nothing as he gets older. He has a great build and phenomenal body. When he gets to college, he’ll get even stronger and better.”
Kentucky offensive tackle Landon Young spent five productive years playing for the hometown Wildcats and is now in Arizona training for what he hopes will soon be a professional football career.
The Cats have to find a replacement for Young and center Drake Jackson, another fifth-year Kentuckian, on next year’s offensive line but got a boost with the return of All-American Darin Kinnard at the other tackle.
Young is optimistic the Big Blue Wall will be just fine next season without him and Jackson.
“I feel there will be a lot of depth and a lot of guys that want to come out and play. I don’t think that we’re going to be shy next year with guys that can fill spots and stay at a good level of play,” Young said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a huge drop off.
“I think that there’s guys that need reps to be able to fine hone their skills. Of course, we have a lot of start reps and a lot of experience on our starting line, but I see these guys that are willing to work and willing to be coached that are excited to have coaches come in and teach them. They want to get out there and play ball.”
Young says the perception of being an offensive lineman has totally changed in the last five years thanks in large part to the work of former line coach John Schlarman.
“We’ve sort of made it a thing over the last couple years that it’s fun to be an offensive lineman at the University of Kentucky and we want to continue that,” Young said. “We want to continue these new guys coming in and really good guys coming in and thinking UK makes it fun to be an offensive lineman.”
One of those new lineman that will be coming in this week is Frederick Douglass standout Jager Burton. He was the top-ranked recruit in the state and wanted to enroll early to get a jump start on the 2021 season.
Former Kentucky linebacker Donte Key, an assistant coach at Douglas, believes Burton has a chance to be a contributor as a true freshman much like former Douglas four-star recruit Walker Parks did last season.
“I would not be surprised if Jager puts on 15 pounds and has a chance to start at guard,” Key said. “Walker played a lot this year and made some type of freshman All-American team. Coach (Nathan) McPeek can coach offensive linemen. He knows how to get them ready for the next level.”
West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshwiebe won’t be able to play this season but Kentucky coach John Calipari is hoping he will be the same type valuable practice player that current NBA player Enes Kanter was his year at UK when he was ineligible.
“I told him, ‘Your job will be, how do I help these guys?’ ” Calipari said. “And again, maybe with him, I take five guys and those five are playing the top seven or eight guys and we start scrimmaging that way, even though it’s late in the season. It’s something that I’ve thought about when we get him.”
One NBA source believes Tshwiebe will be a midseason steal for Calipari and Kentucky.
“That kid is a top 10 draft pick if he plays the way he can,” the NBA source said. “Calipari is in good shape there. Kentucky has not had a player exactly like him recently. He’s big, tough, physical and more skilled than most realize. He’s also still learning how to play the game and is only going to get better and better.”
Tshiebwe moved to the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2015 — about a year after he started playing basketball — before his freshman year of high school at Mountain Mission School in Virginia. He played his final two high school seasons at Kennedy Catholic in Pennsylvania where he averaged 23.4 points, 18 rebounds and 5.2 bocks per game. His team won Pennsylvania state titles both years.
Rivals and 247Sports both had him as a five-star recruit and he was named a McDonald’s All-American. He was former UK guard Tyrese Maxey’s teammate at the McDonald’s All-American Game and had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting 10 rebounds and one steal in 18 minutes. He also played in the Nike Hoop Summit.
Louisville native Anna Maria Tarullo, sports director at WOWK 13 News in Charleston, W.Va., likes what Tsheibwe is going to bring to Kentucky.
“Tsheibwe is such a grab for Kentucky’s front court. Brings some much needed size and strength and overall physical presence in the post,” Tarullo, a life-time UK fan, said. “He had an immediate impact with WVU — and was Mr. Double-Double — almost averaged a double-double.
“I was pretty surprised at his sudden departure but I think it’s a big testament to his character that it doesn’t seem to be on bad terms — seems to still have the respect and well-wishes of (West Virginia coach Bob) Huggins and his teammates who seem like they will genuinely miss him.”
Tarullo says Tsheibwe gives UK a definite “presence down low” but notes that his “levity off the court” is something West Virginia will miss as much as his on-court presence.
“One of the more memorable moments I have of him in Mountaineer gear was in 2019 when the team visited a children’s hospital and Tshiebwe played Santa,” she said. “Tsheibwe is fun to watch and listen to — his accent is great.”
While many Kentucky fans think coach John Calipari was stubborn for not playing freshman Dontaie Allen much the first seven games when the Cats went 1-6 and then overly hard on him when he did start playing him, Allen does not see it that way.
“I think he’s hard on everybody. I don’t think it’s certain people. It’s just, he wants everybody to be great so he’s going to coach everybody accordingly,” Allen said.
“In practice he’ll tell me little things like, ‘Shoot the ball.’ Like, he’ll say I’m second guessing into a shot fake into a pull-up. He’ll just be like, ‘Shoot the first one,’ because he feels like I’m open. I think just things like that.”
Allen maybe explained why he kept his patience and belief he could contribute when he was not playing with this next statement about Calipari’s hard coaching.
“It depends on how you take it. Like, how coachable you are. That’s going to depend on how much you think you’re getting coached hard,” Allen said. “If you’re not coachable, obviously you’re going to take it a little bit harder.”
Allen has also understood how he can help teammates when he’s on the court even if he is not scoring.
“I mean, as far as game planning, obviously having a shooter out there will space the floor, but at the end of the day I just want to do whatever helps the team win,” Allen said.
ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes has made it clear on national TV that believes Allen has to be on the court because he can make shots, something many of his teammates have not shown they can do.
“Kentucky is just an entirely different offensive team when Allen is on the court compared to when he is not,” Dykes said. “It would be hard for me to take him off the floor because at least this guy can put the ball in the basket.”
That’s why so many Kentucky fans were baffled after last week’s loss to Auburn when Calipari offered this explanation for why he did not start Allen or Jacob Toppin in the second half at Auburn when they were clearly UK’s best players the first half
“I want to win every game I coach, but the other side of it is, I’m not trying to take anybody’s heart away,” Calipari said.
Quote of the Week: “To beat Kentucky is historic. You’re judged by how you do against the best teams on your schedule and certainly Kentucky’s going to always be as good as anybody on our schedule,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl after beating UK again.
Quote of the Week 2: “Cal couldn’t give a damn about winning college basketball games. If he’s getting guys who he knows he can end up developing into NBA players, you’re automatically going to win 30 games a year just from that alone. That’s what I loved,” former UK player De’Aaron Fox on John Calipari preparing him for the NBA.
Quote of the Week 3: “At the end of the day, basketball should be a fun game. I’m proud of him. That’s a huge milestone at any point in anybody’s career. I just told him I’m proud of him and to have fun,” Dontaie Allen on his younger brother, Tredyn, reaching the 1,000-point mark at Pendleton County High School.