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Calling It Like It Is, Kentucky Was Lied To

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Darron Cummings/Associated Press

With Shaedon Sharpe announcing on Thursday that he will be entering the NBA Draft while retaining his college eligibility, the Sharpe dilemma looks to have an end in sight.

While technically there is a possibility of a return based on draft eligibility concerns, which you can read about here, for all intents and purposes, it should be assumed that Sharpe is going to the NBA.

Since enrolling early at Kentucky, Sharpe and his camp have repeatedly said that he came early to prepare and would play for Kentucky in the 2022-23 season. With that no longer looking to be the case, it comes off as poor form.

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It’s okay to be frustrated, because let’s be honest, we were lied to and I truly believe the coaching staff was as well. Taking Sharpe and his camp’s word at face value came back to haunt them.

I don’t put much blame on Sharpe, but rather on his handlers. If they had been more transparent about the situation, the negative response would not be as bad, but they weren’t and may have even made it worse with one report saying they “affected the narrative and are quite amateur”.

Looking back to his decision to enroll early, let’s take a look at some now questionable comments made by Sharpe, his camp, and even Calipari.

October 25, 2021: “He will not be going to the NBA Draft” – Mentor

Sharpe’s mentor, Dwayne Washington, was interviewed by the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts where he swiftly dismissed any talk of the NBA Draft.

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“He will not be going to the NBA Draft. That’s not even something to talk about. That’s like saying, ‘Are you going to go to Mars tomorrow?’”

November 9, 2021: “100%, I will be at Kentucky to play next season” – Sharpe

In coordination with his announcement to enroll in the spring semester, Sharpe was interviewed by Sports Illustrated’s Jason Jordan.

In the interview, Jordan asked Sharpe about the prospect of playing this season, where he answered, “I’ll do whatever the team needs, but 100% I will be at Kentucky to play next season.”

December 31, 2021: “There has never been a plan to play him” – Calipari

Following Kentucky’s win over High Point, Cal was asked about Sharpe with the spring semester starting soon, providing this quote:

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“We haven’t talked about (him playing), the family hasn’t talked about it. My guess would be, he’s fine. Let’s get him in shape and go from there. There was never a plan to play him. I left that out there so everybody would panic, but there has never been a plan to play him. But, let’s get him here and work him out, see how things are, and see how our team is.”

January 12, 2022: “You get in early, you’ll be able to see Shaedon work out” – Calipari

With UK’s spring semester starting January 10th, Sharpe was then able to join the team. On January 11th, Sharpe traveled to take on Vanderbilt, where he was throwing down between-the-legs dunks in pre-game warmups.

This was followed by what may have been the worst PR move from the Kentucky side of things, with Calipari telling fans to “come early” to see a glimpse of Sharpe.

“Come early. Come early. Alright, here’s what I’m going to tell you. You get in early, you’ll be able to see Shaedon work out. So if you want to be the first to see Shaedon work out, he’ll be on there doing pregame and you’ll get to see him and say — You’ll be the first one to tell everybody, ‘I saw him.’ But you’ve got to get there early. He’ll be out there 90 minutes prior to tip-off.”

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January 14, 2022: “If he’s ready, I say let’s go” – Calipari

John Calipari followed up his previous comments by continuing to hype up a potential debut for Sharpe to play this season. When asked if a there would be a situation where Sharpe would play, Cal answered:

“I don’t know. If he’s not ready to play, I would not put him out there. I would say, come on, this kid just came here. How do you make us, you know? You can’t do that to the kid — unless he’s ready. If he’s ready, I say let’s go. But he practiced yesterday. He’s going to practice today. We’re doing stuff with him.”

January 21, 2022: “He plans on being here next year” – Calipari

On January 20th, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported that Sharpe was able to apply for the 2022 NBA Draft. In response Calipari suggested that didn’t really change things, however, this seemed where the momentum began to change.

“No, it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t. He plans on being here next year. He’s watching. Whether I play him or not this year, if he’s ready to be in games, I’ll put him in. He’s a great kid, and he’s doing well. And he’s going to make practices even better. He’s only been here two weeks. But, at the end of the day, you know I’m going to be for kids. That’s how I do this.”

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January 22, 2022: “If he doesn’t play this year, he’s coming back next year” – Mentor

In an interview with Kentucky Sports Radio, Washington echoed the same sentiment as Calipari in regards to Givony’s report.

“It’s pretty idiotic. Everybody knew that this was an option, but we’re not taking it. He lost millions coming to school. He came to get better. … You come to get ready if you want to go to the NBA, which is one of the goals. You have to be ready. People don’t respect Calipari’s ability to develop enough, that’s why (Shaedon’s) there. He’s not there to sit on the bench and wave at fans. He’s coming back next year. If he doesn’t play this year, he’s coming back next year.”

February 2, 2022: “I feel like it’ll prepare me for when I play next year” – Sharpe

In one of Sharpe’s few media interactions during his time at Kentucky, he spoke to Curtis Burch on the “Behind Kentucky Basketball” podcast. Sharpe went on to talk about how his decision to enroll early. “I feel like it’ll prepare me for when I play next year,” he said.

February 7, 2022: “He is committed to bettering himself… this year and being better prepared to lead us next season” – Calipari

Calipari makes it official that Sharpe would not play this season, and this is in part due to some eligibility concerns regarding the mysterious nature of his graduation date, which have since been talked about.

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While the Kentucky compliance was not 100% sure, they did not want there to be the potential for any NCAA violation to affect the outcome of the season.

Calipari also doesn’t put this tweet out, saying “being better prepared to lead us next season,” if Sharpe’s camp is telling him there is a possibility of him leaving.

February 8, 2022: This kid comes back, he’s the No. 1 draft pick

Following the day when it was announced that Sharpe would not be playing for Kentucky this season, Calipari gave his first quote in which he acknowledged that Sharpe could leave for the NBA Draft, saying, ” we don’t know yet.”

“It is what it is. I know everybody will say, ‘Well, he isn’t coming,’ Yeah, well anybody can say anything. This kid comes back, he’s the No. 1 draft pick. In my mind, he’s the No. 1 draft pick. How can I say I know what the No. 1 draft pick looks like? BECAUSE I’VE HAD FOUR. That’s why I can say what it looks like. He can be the No. 1 draft pick.

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March 21, 2022: “I hope I get a chance to coach him in real games” – Calipari

During this final radio show of the season, Calipari sounded defeated after losing to Saint Peter’s and came off with a complete lack of confidence that Sharpe would be returning, contrary to what had been said for months at this point.

“I think he’s gotta explore but he’s gotta make a decision on, ‘Alright, do I want this right now? Am I ready for this right now? Is it where I thought it was?’ Because as you go through the process, the information comes back from the NBA, not an agent or anybody else around you, it comes from the NBA…He’s another one. I hope I get a chance to coach him in real games because I enjoy him in practice and I enjoy him as a young person. He’s one of those guys but he’s a super talent though.”

April 12, 2022: “Nothing has been decided” – Mentor

Less than two weeks ago, reports from many college basketball insiders came out that said Sharpe would enter the NBA Draft while maintaining his college eligibility. However, Sharpe’s mentor again insisted that “nothing has been decided”.

Sharpe has until June 1st at 11:59 PM to make his final decision.

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BB Recruiting

Top Remaining 2022 Prospect Ugonna Kingsley Commits to Kentucky

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UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats have recruiting momentum in both the football and basketball programs, but today John Calipari and Co were the ones to receive the latest commitment, five-star center Ugonna Kingsley.

Kingsley’s commitment comes off the heels of a visit to Kentucky back in July, where all of his boxes were checked and he felt at home in Lexington. Kingsley chose Kentucky over the Kansas Jayhawks, Memphis Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, and others.

Kingsley is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the country, first appearing in recruiting rankings back in late May. Two months later, Kingsley was ranked as a top-25 prospect and one of the best centers in the 2023 class.

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With that said, Kingsley is no longer with the 2023 class, he would reclassify in late July. With his reclassification, Kingsley now stands No. 39 in the 2022 247 Sports prospect rankings and pushes Kentucky nine spots to No. 2 in the team rankings behind only Duke.

Due to the Shaedon Sharpe saga, the Big Blue Nation is likely to be a little wary – understandably so – of Kingsley’s reclassification, but this is a different situation.

While Kingsley is very talented, he does not yet possess the talent level of a projected top-10 pick coming out of high school. With that assurance, Kingsley’s reclassification is a benefit for himself and the Kentucky basketball program.

In his first year in Lexington, Kingsley will be allowed sit and develop behind reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, then take over in 2023-24 when Tshiebwe is expected to be in the NBA Draft. Kingsley’s early arrival will also give Kentucky some insurance if a frontcourt player were to go down with an injury.

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Despite both of his parents being under six feet in height, the Nigerian native possesses a 6-foot-11, 195-pound frame, and an impressive 7-foot-5 wingspan. Given his physical gifts, Kingsley is a natural on the defensive end and is a high-level rim protector. Overall, he is one of the best defenders in high school basketball, but his lack of strength can hurt him at times in the post.

On the offensive end, Kingsley has impressive footwork and shows the ability to score consistently around the basket. Outside of that, shooting, passing, and dribbling are all areas in need of improvement.

In early June, Kingsley admitted to On3’s Jamie Shaw, “I have been wanting to go to Kentucky all my life, even before coming to the states.”

Now, Kingsley has made his dream a reality and Kentucky is bringing in one of the best rim protectors they have had in recent memory.

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*Also posted on A Sea of Blue

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Reed Sheppard Shines in High-Profile ESPN Televised Game

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UK Athletics

In the last two months, Kentucky has secured commitments from top-10 recruits Justin Edwards (No. 3) and Robert Dillingham (No. 6) in the 2023 class. However, on Tuesday night Kentucky’s first commitment in the class, Reed Sheppard, was the one to make a statement.

In a high-profile game televised on ESPN, Sheppard faced off against Strive for Greatness, a grassroots team who featured top-five prospects Mookie Cook and Mackenzie Mgbako, Bronny James (LeBron James’ son), and his future teammate Dillingham.

Out of all the stars on the floor, Sheppard shined the brightest, going for 16 points, nine rebounds, and four assists to help lead Midwest Basketball Club to a 78-67 victory over the star-filled Strive for Greatness.

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Sheppard is a five-star in his own right but ranks between 20th to 40th depending on which service you look at, but showed that he may be better than his ranking indicates.

Sheppard is the highest-ranked recruit from the State of Kentucky since former Louisville player Chane Behanan (Bowling Green, KY). Furthermore, he will be the highest-ranked recruit from the state of Kentucky to play for the University of Kentucky since Rex Chapman.

Check out this short highlight video of Sheppard’s performance!

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Top-Three Prospect Justin Edwards Commits to Kentucky

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UK Athletics

John Calipari has the opportunity to make the class of 2023 one of the best in Kentucky basketball history, and he is on pace to make that happen.

Thus far, Calipari and Co have secured the commitments of top-ranked point guard Robert Dillingham, and five-star legacy recruits Reed Sheppard. Today, the Wildcats added another uber-talented piece to the roster, Justin Edwards.

Edwards currently stands as the No. 3 ranked recruit in the 2023 247 Sports Composite player rankings, and many believe he could end up No. 1 when it is all said in done.

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Edwards commitment is important, as he is the first top-three prospect to commit to Kentucky since Shaedon Sharpe, and the first one to play since Skal Labissiere in the class of 2015. The addition of Edwards, also jumps Kentucky’s class ranking to the No. 2 spot, only sitting behind Duke who has 4 commits.

Standing 6-foot-7, 180 pounds Edwards has great athleticism and size. He is proficient in most areas, with room for improvement. On top of all that, he is aggressive, but rarely plays out of control and has good basketball IQ.

In summary, he is a good all-around basketball player. Which you can see in these highlights.

At the Louisville EYBL session, Edwards talked to KY Insider about Kentucky’s pitch and how the staff thinks he could be the next great Kentucky player. Now, he has the opportunity to make that happen.

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