Canada's Shaedon Sharpe Is the NBA Draft's Biggest Enigma

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Image via Getty/Dylan Buell
Image via Getty/Dylan Buell

Canada’s Shaedon Sharpe is entering this year’s NBA Draft with a unique combination of hype and mystery surrounding his name.

The London, Ontario native—who was ranked the No. 1 high school recruit for the class of 2022 on many boards, including ESPN’s—reclassified and enrolled at the University of Kentucky last winter, but ultimately chose not the play for the Wildcats.

Despite never playing at the college level, the 19-year-old is projected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Detroit Pistons, to name a few, are all viable options for the 6-foot-6 shooting guard who has a 7-foot wingspan and a 45-inch vertical.

Ask any scout why they’re so high on Sharpe, and they’ll likely all tell you the same thing: He’s tailor-made for today’s NBA.

“Some of the guys who’ve been No. 1 in the past, their game did not necessarily translate to the NBA. Everything about Sharpe translates. I mean, that’s what the NBA is looking for. Everybody is looking for that 6-foot-6 shooting guard who can score anywhere from the floor. I can’t see many teams passing up on that,” says Jonathan Givony, an NBA draft analyst at ESPN.

“I’m laser-focused when I’m playing ball. I’m only focused on the task at hand, which is making buckets.”

If Sharpe gets drafted in the top 10, he will become the first Canadian to do so without playing a single game of college basketball.

Some may call it luck, but there’s no such word in Sharpe’s vocabulary. It’s all hard work and perseverance. Not to mention having a strong work ethic, supportive family dynamic, and his mentor Dwayne Washington, the founder and CEO of elite AAU program UPLAY Canada, by his side.

“He fits a prototype of star players. He has an explosive ability to shoot off the dribble. He’s unique because he comes almost like a complete player, which is unusual. When you add a natural and athletic ability, he has the frame makeup of past superstars who’ve played at the highest level,” says Washington.

Sharpe’s on-court presence has shades of Kentucky alumni Devin Booker and Russell Westbrook. He is also often compared to Bradley Beal for his performance as a wing player.

“Those guys are all very athletic and have a similar makeup physically. Bradley Beal, in his case, has a lot of fine skills, creates separations with a strong body,” said Washington.

When you see Sharpe on the court, he’s a silent assassin, ready to attack at any time. “I’m laser-focused when I’m playing ball. I’m only focused on the task at hand, which is making buckets,” says Sharpe.

Shaedon Sharpe #21 of the Kentucky Wildcats warms up prior to the game against the Auburn Tigers
Image via Getty/Andy Lyons

Sharpe also has a quiet demeanour off the court and is in many ways your typical teenager. When he’s not hooping, he’s playing video games or catching up on Vampire Diaries reruns. “I know it’s girly, but I’m on the first season, and I’m midway through that,” he laughs. “But it’s pretty good so far.”

Depending on his schedule come December, he hopes he can catch the followup to one of his favourite movies: James Cameron’s critically acclaimed Avatar. “Oh my goodness… [Laughs.] I can’t wait for the next sequel. I saw the previews and cannot wait for the movie.”

Sharpe was born in London, which is west of Toronto. His parents, Julia and Robert, have long supported his hoop dreams. He’s the middle child in his family, with an older sister and younger brother.

His basketball journey wasn’t always linear. The first sport he loved playing was football. He played for the London Junior Mustangs Football Club, basketball was just a way for him to get some conditioning. “I really loved playing football. I really put in a lot of time becoming a football player and thought I would go into the NFL,” says Sharpe.

“I try my best to lead by example and be a leader for these young kids.”

His football dreams ended when he broke his right tibia before entering high school. “I was running down the field, and the dude came on my right side, and I didn’t see him. Dude got my leg, and that’s how my football career ended.”

Sharpe’s football injury was a silver lining. As he was entering high school, he had to pick a sport, and basketball was his choice.

His work ethic, whether on the field or the court, did not change. Dave Sewell, who coached Sharpe at H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, had the opportunity to work with the prospect throughout COVID. He noticed Sharpe’s athleticism right away, but his work ethic and constant need to improve stood out.

“He’s a gym rat, I would call him. He’s a kid that’s always working. When he’s at home, we’re always working together, and we’re in the gym every night and working late hours. He loves to work, and he’s got a high motor. He’s always working,” says Sewell.

In his first year of high school, Sharpe played basketball for H.B. Beal. He led his team to an OFSAA AAA title. In his sophomore year, he transferred to Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas. There was little traction with Sharpe’s performance while he attended Sunrise Christian Academy.

He transferred to Dream City Christian School in Glendale, Arizona, where he played a leading role on the team. His basketball coach there, Kyle Weaver, only saw clips of Sharpe playing before his transfer, but he knew the kid from London was different.

“I saw a couple of clips of him dunking in games, and that was about it. But when I saw a couple of highlights, I was telling myself, this kid has got it. He’s got a legit chance to be good. Dwayne spoke highly of him,” says Weaver.

Sharpe’s performance at Nike EYBL with his AUU team UPLAY Canada made him a person of interest, averaging 21.6 points a game and almost shooting 50 percent from the three-point line. Entering his senior year, he was ranked No. 1 by ESPN, 247 Sports, and Rivals.

Shaedon Sharpe #21 of the Kentucky Wildcats against the Mississippi State Bulldogs
Image via Getty/Andy Lyons

“He earned that. I agree that he was the best prospect in the class. It’s not a big leap to go from the No. 1 player in the class. You’re in all likelihood to be a top-five pick. That’s what history says, and 90 percent of that time, that’s what happens,” says Givony.

Becoming a No. 1 prospect has led Sharpe to multiple partnerships and NIL deals. Porsche Louisville gifted the young buck with some new wheels. He inked two NIL deals with SoleSavy and Culture Kings, which are pretty fitting for Sharpe. He loves fashion and sneakers.

“The Jordan 5 Off-Whites are my favourite [currently]. But, the Jordan 1 high-tops are my all-time favourite shoes,” says Sharpe.

The rankings, NIL deals, interviews, and everything that comes with being a top prospect have not shaken Sharpe’s mindset. He wants to play basketball. It’s a journey he hopes will inspire younger children to continue to pursue their dreams. Elijah Fisher, who committed to Texas Tech and is similarly ranked as one of Canada’s top high school prospects, mentions Sharpe as an inspiration.

“I feel good that the younger generation looks up to me and wants to follow in my footsteps,” says Sharpe. “I try my best to lead by example and be a leader for these young kids. It’s great to know they are looking up to me.”

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