There is no bigger mystery in the 2022 NBA Draft than Shaedon Sharpe.
The athletic guard from London, Ontario possesses all the talent to be potentially in the conversation for the top overall pick, but the unusual circumstances of his past year have created uncertainty around where he will go on draft night.
Sharpe was the consensus top-ranked player in the high school class of 2022, with ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports all bestowing that distinction upon the 6-6 shooting guard. But instead of waiting until this spring to make a college decision, Sharpe elected to reclassify, enrolling at Kentucky in January.
Sharpe stated early on that he planned to redshirt for the Wildcats and indeed, he never played a game for coach John Calipari’s squad. Sharpe was around the team, taking part in practices as a member of the scout team. Because of his age – Sharpe turned 19 on May 30 – he was eligible for this year’s draft.
Sharpe initially elected to declare for the draft while maintaining his collegiate eligibility on April 21, but on May 31 he announced he had decided to stay in the draft rather than return to Kentucky. Had Sharpe played next season at Kentucky, he would have been one of the preseason favorites to end up as the top pick in next year’s draft. Instead, he’s the biggest unknown commodity in this year’s draft class.
Compared to his peers, there’s just a lot less tape on Sharpe and how he stacks up against formidable competition. Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin, and Johnny Davis all played two years of high-level college basketball. A.J. Griffin spent one season on a Duke team that advanced all the way to the Final Four. Dyson Daniels spent the last season competing against grown men in the G League.
Sharpe, on the other hand, has only played at the high-school level and hasn’t played in an organized five-on-five setting in close to a year.
Naturally, that’s caused teams to have a lot of questions for him when he comes in for a pre-draft workout, like he did in Indiana on Monday.
“They haven’t seen me play in about a year, so it’s really if I can compete,” Sharpe said of what teams have said to him during the pre-draft process.
Sharpe hoped he proved that to the Pacers on Monday, where he was one of six players in a group workout setting. He has done a handful of workouts with teams over the past few weeks, some of them group workouts and some individual. Indiana was his last stop before the draft on Thursday.
While there’s an air of mystery around what Sharpe might be in the NBA, it’s easy to see the argument for taking a chance on him. With his all-around skillset, Sharpe has the tools to develop into a two-way force. He’s an exceptional athlete and a strong perimeter shooter on offense and projects as a potential game-changing defender with a nearly seven-foot wingspan.
“A dude that likes to attack the rim, finish above the rim, find open teammates and then just be that guy on defense,” Sharpe said when asked to describe his game.
2022 Draft Workouts: Shaedon Sharpe
Sharpe is certainly not lacking in confidence, either. He said he sees himself being a “go-to guy” in the NBA and told reporters on a Zoom conference call on Friday that he has high aspirations.
“I see myself being one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball,” he said. “Just playing at the highest level, just really getting after it and competing. One of my goals coming in as a rookie is just win Rookie of the Year. That’s one of the goals and then also (become an) All-Star and later on Hall of Fame.”
While Sharpe didn’t play at Kentucky, he said his time in practice, where he competed with the likes of potential lottery pick TyTy Washington and national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe, helped him adjust to the increased speed and physicality at higher levels of basketball. Sharpe said his biggest focus entering the NBA will be on adding the necessary strength to compete night in and night out against the world’s best.
Off the court, Sharpe has more of a laid-back demeanor, but he turns into a different person on the floor.
“That’s always been me,” he said. “Just calm, cool, and collected, a chill dude. But when I’m on the court, I like to compete and be that dog.”
If Sharpe lives up to his potential, he could be an ideal fit for the Pacers with the sixth overall pick. The Pacers have assembled a nice young core centered around Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton is one of the league’s best facilitators, so pairing him with a top scoring threat like Sharpe could create a really nice complement.
Sharpe was optimistic about the fit and called the Pacers “a great organization.”
“They’ve got great guys that can shoot off the dribble, create space and everything,” he said. “So me being in there, I could apply pressure, whether that’s attacking the rim or finding my teammates.”
It’s been a wild journey for Sharpe. A year ago, the expectation was that he would just be finishing high school right now. But instead, he’s about to have his life forever changed in three days when Commissioner Adam Silver calls his name on draft night.
“I can’t even imagine, honestly,” Sharpe said of draft night. “I just can’t wait for the day to come.”
How high will Shaedon Sharpe go? That’s still very much a mystery, but one we’ll get an answer to come Thursday.
LaRavia’s Journey to the NBA Comes Full Circle with Return Home
Aside from Sharpe, the prospect at Monday’s workout most likely to go in the first round was Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia. A Lawrence Central graduate, LaRavia relished the opportunity to be back in his hometown, even for just 24 hours or so, ahead of the draft.
“I got to see my family yesterday, he said. “They came down. It’s just kind of cool being able to work out for the team you grew up watching, your hometown team. That was exciting.”
LaRavia was a late-bloomer in high school. He was just 5-10 when he started high school and didn’t even make the varsity team as a sophomore. He eventually grew into a sharpshooting 6-8 forward and committed to Indiana State out of high school.
He impressed over two seasons in Terre Haute, being named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman team in 2019-20 and second-team All-MVC as a sophomore, when he averaged 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. After a coaching change, LaRavia elected to transfer to Wake Forest, where his game really took off last season.
LaRavia had a standout junior season, averaging 14.6 points on 55.9 percent shooting (38.4 percent from 3-point range), 6.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He had some big-time performances, too. LaRavia tallied 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and three steals in a 22-point drubbing of eventual national runner-up North Carolina on Jan. 22. He then went toe-to-toe with potential number-one pick Paolo Banchero in a two-point loss at Duke on Feb. 15, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds while helping limit Banchero to 2-of-10 shooting.
2022 Draft Workouts: Jake LaRavia
All of the sudden, LaRavia’s draft stock soared. The general consensus now is that he will go either late in the first or early in the second round on Thursday (Indiana owns the first pick in the second round, the 31st overall selection).
“It’s been crazy,” LaRavia said of his rise up draft boards. “It changed so quick. I was just at Indiana State two years ago, knowing that this could maybe happen but it wasn’t really real yet. But this past year made it real for me.”
Teams covet LaRavia for his versatility. He has great instincts as a defender and is capable of switching positions on that end, using his 6-8, 227-pound frame to battle with big men while also possessing the footwork to keep up with smaller guards.
Offensively, LaRavia is an efficient scorer at all three levels, but his passing may be his most enticing ability. Wake Forest often deployed him in a “point forward” type role, allowing him to create looks for his teammates.
“I really don’t think there’s a lot of people that are my size that have the playmaking abilities and skills that I do,” LaRavia said.
Butler Assist King Thompson Auditions for Indiana
LaRavia wasn’t the only player with local ties at Monday’s workout. Butler guard Aaron Thompson also took part in what he said was his first pre-draft workout for an NBA team.
The 6-2 guard started 136 of 139 games over five years at Butler and exited the program as the school’s all-time leader in assists, tallying 566 as a Bulldog.
“It was just special,” Thompson said of setting the record last season. “Special for me, special for me and my teammates. Because an assist record is not like a scoring record where you’re putting the ball in the basket yourself. You need your teammates to be able to put the ball in the basket for you…I feel like it was a group award at the end of the day.”
2022 Draft Workouts: Aaron Thompson
Setting up his teammates was Thompson’s primary role in college. He averaged 4.1 assists over his career.
He was more of a complementary scorer offensively, averaging 8.1 points last season. Thompson chose his spots effectively, converting nearly 48 percent of his shots over his career, but was not a real 3-point threat, making just 21 threes at a 23.3-percent clip over five seasons.
With five years of experience battling against the top guards in the Big East, Thompson believes he has plenty to offer at the professional level.
“I feel like I’m a natural-born leader, somebody that brings maturity to a team,” he said. “And (I) just have a work ethic that can’t be topped.”
Pacers Take a Second Look at Samuels
Villanova forward Jermaine Samuels returned to Indiana for a second workout with the Pacers on Monday. The 6-7 forward originally worked out at the Ascension St. Vincent Center on June 10.
Samuels is the first prospect to work out twice for the Pacers this year, something that may or may not have any significance.
The Blue & Gold historically have had a handful of players work out multiple times over the years. Solomon Hill had two workouts in 2013 and the Pacers wound up drafting him with their first-round pick. Davon Reed worked out twice in 2017 and Indiana signed him to a two-way contract a year later. Last year, Indiana Wesleyan forward Kyle Mangas had two workouts with the Pacers before spending last season playing professionally in the Czech Republic.
Between the NBA Draft Combine, agency pro days, and Zoom interviews in addition to pre-draft workouts, the Pacers take multiple looks at a number of prospects each year, just not always in the form of multiple workouts.
Plummer, Williams Hoping to Stand Out
The final two prospects at Monday’s workout were Illinois guard Alfonso Plummer and VCU forward Vince Williams, Jr.
The 6-1 Plummer, a native of Puerto Rico, is known first and foremost as a shooter. After two seasons at junior college, Plummer spent three seasons at the Division I level – two at Utah and then last season at Illinois. He hoisted 526 3-pointers over that time period and knocked down 212 of them, a 40.3-percent rate.
During his lone season in the Big Ten, Plummer averaged 14.6 points with a .408 3-point percentage, attempting over seven threes per game. He made five or more treys in nine games last season, including back-to-back 26-point outings against Ohio State and Michigan at the end of February, when he went 8-for-10 and then 6-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Beyond his shooting, Plummer said he’s working on becoming more of playmaker (he averaged less than an assist per game for his career), but promised to always “bring energy” to the floor.
Plummer is hoping to follow in the footsteps of players like Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea, Puerto Ricans guards that enjoyed lengthy NBA careers.
“Not a lot of Puerto Ricans can be at this level,” Plummer said. “It’s a really hard league to get to. So I’m really proud to represent my little island and just make my people proud.”
2022 Draft Workouts: Alfonso Plummer
Williams is a 6-6 forward who is seemingly the prototype for the modern 3-and-D role. The 21-year-old was a jack-of-all-trades for the Rams last season, averaging 14.1 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks.
VCU has been one of the top defensive teams in the country for much of the past decade. Last season, they ranked seventh in the country in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com.
Williams played a big part in that, using his 7-foot wingspan to create deflections and pester the opposition.
Offensively, Williams made just six 3-pointers in each of his freshman and sophomore seasons, but became more of an outside threat over his final two seasons. He shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range as a junior and 38.7 percent as a senior, making 108 triples over those two seasons.
Williams is hoping to hear his name called on draft night, but even if he doesn’t get drafted, he has the kind of skillset that could potentially intrigue a team enough to offer him a two-way contract.
“It would mean a lot just because I’ve been working for it my whole life, really,” Williams said about getting an opportunity in the NBA. “I feel like that would make my parents happy, too, just hearing my name called or just getting picked up by a team.”
2022 Draft Workouts: Vince Williams Jr.
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