A couple of years ago, Jamarion Sharp was playing basketball for the first time in high school.
Now, as a sophomore at John A. Logan in Carterville, Illinois, the former Hoptown Tiger is progressing to new heights, and soon, a new home in Bowling Green.
In his sophomore campaign at John A., Sharp has really come along as the rim-protecting big that his 7-foot, 3-inch frame is built to be. But if you ask Vols’ head coach Kyle Smithpeters, Sharp began his ascent starting at the end of his freshman season.
“You saw the change last year when we were cut short,” Smithpeters said. “If you watch the first game that he played in college to the game the last game we played against Vincennes where he was probably the best player on the floor, he went from a not being noticed 7-1 at the time, big guy, to probably being the most dominant defender on the floor.
“He’s done a really good job of changing a lot of his habits and making himself into a really good player.”
In his second season at John A. Logan, Sharp has recorded a pair of triple-doubles. Both with points, blocks and rebounds.
One thing that Smithpeters sees that Sharp does a lot of contributing towards are stats that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
“The thing is, people pay attention to the number of blocks he has per game, which is like seven, but what people don’t see is the number of deflections he has or the number of shots that he doesn’t block that are missed because they have to shoot over him — the way he alters shots is truly impressive,” Smithpeters said. “He’s also a guy that can step out and guard ball screens. He’s out on the floor and the perimeter, people are trying to pull him out all the time and he’s able to move his feet and stay in front of guys. He’s not an immobile player. He’s got ability, he’s got the quickness to guard multiple spots. I think he gives our guards and other players a lot of confidence knowing if someone gets beat, they’re forcing them into a guy when he puts his hands up is 9 feet, 6 inches tall that can really block shots.”
But it’s his stats, along with his long frame that attracted many offers from schools across the country, including the likes of Oregon and West Virginia.
At the end of the day, Sharp chose the school that reached out to him first in Western Kentucky University.
“I’ve been wanting to go there for a while,” Sharp said of Western. “Out of high school, I didn’t feel like I was prepared to go there. Out of high school, WKU was my first offer. When I graduated, I wanted to go there but I didn’t think I was ready. Two years later, they offered me again and I knew this was the school I wanted to go there. They recruited me first and I love it there.”
However, Sharp said he wouldn’t be the player he was if it wasn’t for going the JUCO route.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve become more physical, my free throw percentage has gone up and I’ve learned how to play against bigger dudes,” Sharp said. “Personally for me, I’m glad I went JUCO first. Had I gone to a D-I school out of high school, it would’ve been a more difficult transition than it is now.”
John A. Logan has produced a very high number of Division-I athletes over the last decade, also seeing former Vol Jay Scrubb become a second-round draft pick in last year’s NBA Draft.
Sharp hasn’t only gotten an early look at college experience, he’s also gotten to practice against the talent he will face at the next level.
“I think what’s also helped Jamarion is him and Sydney Curry, our other big that’s going to Kansas, have battled each other every day for two years,” Smithpeters said. “It’s not like you’re going up against a slouch every day, you’re going up against a guy that’s really good. They’re benefactors of each other being able to compete and go at each other at a very high level.”
Sharp said guarding Curry at first was difficult, but now that time against hius teammate has prepared him for the next level.
“At first it was hard because I wasn’t used to someone bigger than me,” Sharp said. “After a while and after I got used to it, it helps me improve even more because if I can go against him, I can really go against everyone.”
Sharp has the rest of his sophomore season to look forward too, but already has his mind set on improving his game before stepping on campus in Bowling Green next fall.
“I plan on improving my shot — I feel like my shot hasn’t been there,” Sharp said. “I plan on improving in the classroom too.”
Sharp will be back on the floor with John A. Logan tonight against Wabash Valley.