With every practice, Trail Blazers rookie Shaedon Sharpe becomes less of a mystery.
Though he trained but didn’t play during his lonely season in Kentucky, Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin and his staff were confident they knew enough about Sharpe, a 6-6 guard who grew up in Canada, and his Assist ball played, take away in Arizona, with a seventh overall pick in the 2022 draft, Portland’s highest pick since picking Damian Lillard with a sixth pick in the 2012 draft.
A minor shoulder injury sustained in the opening minutes of his Summer League debut put Sharpe out for the duration of Portland’s Las Vegas run, depriving the curious, whether they were fans or his new teammates and coaches, of their first real opportunity , something to see Sharpe in game action.
After a few weeks of rehab, Sharpe was cleared to participate in basketball activities, allowing most of his teammates to see what he was capable of, at least during informal training sessions at the team’s Tualatin training facility before the start of the 2022–23 season. But now that training camp is in full swing, Sharpe has had a chance to show what he’s capable of in a structured environment and it’s been a great start by all accounts.
“The first few days were pretty solid,” Sharpe said. “I had to get to know the sets and everything, had to compete. The first few days in the books were pretty good. The information they give us, attack and defense, I feel like I’m taking things pretty easy. I just have to go through it a time or two and I should be good.
Even those who have played at the highest levels of the college ranks for years have to adjust to the speed of the NBA game, so it’s not only natural but to expect that a player who has had almost no game action in well over a year seen, this would require some acclimatization time. That process is well underway after the first few days of training camp on the UC Santa Barbara campus and will continue throughout the preseason and likely into the regular season, though Sharpe says he’s already noticing improvements.
“In the beginning the speed was high, but now that we’ve done five against five a few times, it’s starting to slow down and stuff,” said the 19-year-old rookie. “I’m just getting used to the sets where you’re on the court, it’s just slowed down.”
Although Sharpe’s natural ability has allowed him to play at camp even as he adjusts to the NBA game. It’s easy to visualize (with the help of some highlight clips) the athleticism and ease with which he moves around the pitch from an offensive perspective, even though he’s used those talents on the other side of the pitch as well.
“I think (Sharpe) is one of those guys who can use his athleticism on both ends of the floor,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “He’s really long, he’s already an incredible shot blocker, he’s never out of a game. He goes and meets guys on the pitch, it’s amazing what instincts he has at that end.”
“I watched him train a few times when he was injured. Super talented, he has pretty much everything,” said Anfernee Simons. “He had good scrimmage today, especially in the last game, he made some games. I think as soon as it fits together for him and things slow down, I think he’s definitely going to be a problem.
By working with the likes of Damian Lillard – who recently dubbed the rookie a “world talent” – Sharpe, Simons, Josh Hart and Gary Payton II will have the luxury of learning what it takes to be a guard in the NBA without that same level of pressure top-10 picks often face in their freshman season. But the early days of learning about the 2022 draft’s “mystery man” were prosperous, both for Sharpe and his teammates.
“I like to attack the perimeter, force the defense to really defend and play, try to pull some fouls and get my teammates involved too. And on defense, I help my teammates in whatever way I can, whether it’s helping, narrowing the field, and swapping one through five,” Sharpe said. “You get to know how I play and how I like to play, where I like the ball. The same with me to them. Knowing where they like to play, how they play and where they want the ball on the pitch sometimes.”