While people describe the NFL as a 365-day-a-year sport, college hoops is slowly turning into the same.
First, we have the lead-up to the season, which usually begins around this time on the calendar. Then the season itself from November to early April. Then the transfer portal takes over April and May. NBA Draft decisions have, at least for the last two years, crept into the summer. And the occasional reclassification (hello Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates) kept the cycle going strong in the weeks leading up to football this fall.
Well, just when things were quiet heading into the final few weeks before the season, we got some big news on Wednesday night, as Travis Branham from 247 Sports reported that Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 1 high school player in the class of 2022 may try and graduate high school this fall semester and enroll at Kentucky for the spring semester.
The goal, per Branham wouldn't be to actually play this year, but apparently, instead to get to campus early and practice with the team this spring, to get ready for the 2022-2023 season.
Here is the money line from Branham:
While Sharpe is strongly considering joining the team at the break, the goal is to continue to advance Sharpe's development and not play in a game until the 2022-23 season.
At first glance, this would appear to be a great thing for Kentucky. Getting any elite player on campus early is excellent news. It allows him to get onto campus earlier, get acclimated to campus life, and compete and practice against really talented teammates in the lead-up to the 2022-2023 season.
Oh, and in the era of pro leagues like the G-League Ignite and Overtime Elite trying to poach high school talent, it is six months less that you have to worry about them swooping in at the last minute and stealing a player of Sharpe's caliber.
At the same time, at least in Sharpe's case, it is a double-edged sword, and the reason is simple: Remember, to be eligible for any NBA Draft, two things have to happen. One, you have be at least 19-years-old in that calendar year to be draft eligible, and two you have to be at least one year removed from high school graduation.
Well, Sharpe was born in 2003 and turned 18 this past May. It also means that he'll be 19 next May, which means that if he were to graduate by the end of 2021, he would be eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Weirdly this is an exact circumstance that Kentucky has dealt with in the past. Back in 2017, Hamidou Diallo elected to graduate in January and enroll at Kentucky, and didn't play in a year where the Wildcats were led by De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo. Diallo practiced with the team, but then following the season elected to test the NBA Draft waters, and nearly decided to leave school without ever playing a game.
He ultimately came back and helped the Wildcats to a Sweet 16 the following year. But his decision to come early and then test the waters left a lot of angst in Lexington during the spring of 2017.
Sharpe could do the same, and the gift and the curse of it, is that he is a much better prospect than Diallo ever was. So should he enroll early, and should he decide to test the draft waters, it feels like there is a very, very good chance he would be selected pretty high in the next NBA Draft if he decided to stay in.
Admittedly it's all just speculation right now, as Sharpe hasn't even yet elected to graduate, reclassify and enroll at Kentucky.
But if he does come, everyone will be holding their breath that he actually makes it to the 2022-2023 season.
Here is some reaction I did from when Sharpe first committed to Kentucky last month: