Shaedon Sharpe’s NBA moment will come when the time is right

Years before Shaedon Sharpe went from unknown to one of the most talked about NBA draft prospects, he was cut from the Ontario team at the age of 15.

His father, Robert, remembers this milestone day. They had just left tryouts at the University of Toronto and were walking together when Shaedon turned to his father and said, “I can’t believe I got cut.”

“It just made him hungrier to go out and prove everyone wrong,” Robert Sharpe said today. “The work ethic in practice has been strengthened. He constantly wanted to be in the gym. We saw a change soon after.

Shaedon Sharpe is now enrolled at the University of Kentucky, one of the top NCAA men’s basketball programs, after being ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 high schooler in his class. But with March Madness set to kick off this week, you won’t see it on the pitch. He enrolled in Kentucky, after graduating from high school, to develop his skills for the upcoming college season. He trains with the team, helping the Wildcat prepare for the NCAA tournament, where he is ranked number 2.

There’s speculation among NBA draft junkies that the six-foot-six guard won’t play a game in the NCAA. ESPN’s latest draft simulation predicts that Shaedon would be a top 10 pick if he declares himself eligible and the NBA gives its approval.

“Hearing that I could be a top-10 draft pick is cool and exciting,” Shaedon said. “Three years ago (after being cut by Team Ontario), I didn’t think I would be in this position right now.

According to ESPN, Shaedon’s athleticism, shooting power and creative ability have NBA teams considering him a lottery pick. With its seven-foot frame and wingspan, it has all the tools teams want.

“I would describe my game a bit like Bradley Beal (and) Devin Booker, players who could step into their shoes and create their own shot,” he says. “I feel like I’m really good at attacking the circle and finishing above the circle, but also widening my game, shooting all three (while involving) my teammates.”

Shaedon could make the June 23 draft because he graduated high school early and will be 19 in May. He and his family dismissed the speculation.

“Our plan, and Shaedon’s plan, is to go back to school,” says his mother, Julia. “We have our circle. This circle has always been a small circle, where we know and trust everyone. These are the kind of people we will listen to when the time comes.

Many wonder how a child from London, Ontario, a city best known for hockey and football, could make such a leap. It’s no mystery to the Sharpe family. They remember all the long journeys and dedication that got to this point.

It all started with the sound of the school bell, and when Robert and Julia came home from work around 4 p.m. Twice a week, the whole family would drive from London to Toronto, about five hours round trip, so Shaedon could work with some of the best developing coaches in the GTA. The long drives in their 2006 Pontiac Montana van were worth it. Robert tries not to think about fuel bills, even if he would do it again. And he says Shaedon thanked him for the ride every time they pulled up to the family driveway.

“Without him, I don’t think I would be where I am now,” Shaedon says. “I’m just thanking my parents.”

Those moments of gratitude meant the world to a father who just wanted to see his son prove to the world just how good he was.

“Honestly, I know a lot of parents looked at us and said, ‘Man, you’re crazy traveling after work and being so dedicated,'” Robert said. “But we saw the love and the look in his eyes when he walked onto the pitch… We said if you go all the way we’ll support you.”

Football was in fact Shaedon’s first love in London. Robert said he knew his son had athletic talent at the age of five, when he grabbed a soccer ball with one hand. He then played competitively for the London Junior Mustangs. At the time, he used basketball to condition himself. But when he broke his right leg in a football semifinal before starting high school, the family decided it was time for a change.

“We called it divine intervention,” says Julia. “We said: it is God who makes the decision for you. This was around the time the movie ‘Concussion’ was released and still to this day we haven’t watched it.

Mo Haidar, Shaedon’s Grade 10 coach, recalls the first time he heard whispers about a rising London basketball talent.

“When I first heard about Shaedon, I was just cautiously optimistic,” Haidar says. “But when he first stepped onto the pitch, I was a believer. After that first try or practice, you could see him straight away. He was different.

Shaedon went on to score a record 58 points in a game for Haidar’s London Basketball Academy on the national junior circuit.

“London is a quiet little town, but it’s really known for its hockey. I was originally going to play hockey, but I wanted to change to football (and now) basketball,” Shaedon says. “I just want to bring basketball to the city. I feel like I helped basketball in London.

A day stood out for Haidar. on a snowy day when he received text messages from most parents and players saying they were unlikely to make it to a scheduled practice. The coach decided to go anyway, just in case someone showed up.

“I went to the gym and Shaedon was the only one there. He was there before me,” Haidar said. “I said to myself: there is a meter of snow outside, he does not live nearby and he is there before me. It was just a testament to his work ethic and his drive to want to improve. He is the definition of a gym rat. He just wants to play basketball.

This hard work has paid off. About a year after the heartbreak of being cut by Team Ontario, Shaedon made the national under-16 team. He traveled to Brazil in 2019 and helped Canada win a silver medal at the FIBA ​​Americas Championship.

At the same time, he was making a name for himself in Nike junior basketball with Uplay Canada, the same team where NBA stars RJ Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander honed their craft. He then played basketball at prep school in Kansas and Arizona. And last summer, he was the Nike league’s leading scorer, averaging 22.6 points in just over 28 minutes per game.

He arrived in Kentucky in January amid a frenzy of speculation about his future and trained with the team while taking lessons. He was not alone. Her older sister, Amari, also moved there after finishing her studies, to help her prepare for the next stage of her life.

“When Shaedon was younger, I always did little interviews with him, and pretended he was a big NBA star and asked him interview questions, and he laughed and couldn’t answer them,” says- she. “I feel like I helped him train for what’s going on right now because there’s a lot of media coverage.”

The drive from London to watch Shaedon’s train now takes seven hours to Kentucky, but the family are used to road trips. And they can’t get enough of watching him on the pitch.

“Seven hour drive? We joke with the coaching staff and tell them: you are our neighbours,” says mum Julia. “We’re going to be here every chance we get, because seven hours is literally nothing.”

Shaedon Sharpe alongside his older sister Amari and younger brother Nishayne after enlisting at the University of Kentucky.

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