LAS VEGAS — It had been eight months and 20 days since Shaedon Sharpe played in a competitive basketball game. Sharpe was the No. 1 player coming out of high school, joined Kentucky for the second semester and didn’t play a single game. He was the biggest mystery in the 2022 NBA draft and despite his long hiatus from the court, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sharpe with the seventh overall pick.
“After not playing for so long, I’m just looking forward to playing and competing at the highest level,” Sharpe told Yahoo Sports on draft night. “I’ve put in the work, and I’m just going to come in with confidence and get better each and every day.”
Sharpe took the court at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday night for warmups before the second of two games to open NBA Summer League; the Trail Blazers faced the Detroit Pistons for the late-night tip-off that didn’t start until 12:15 am ET. Sharpe looked loose and comfortable. He had a few bouncy dunks and knocked down some outside jumpers before his first NBA game.
Sharpe was announced as one of the five starters for Portland and was facing the No. 5 pick, Jaden Ivey. Ivey played two full seasons at Purdue and is arguably the best shooting guard in the 2022 draft class.
Sharpe wasn’t afraid to take shots early on. I have attempted two 3-pointers in the same possession three minutes into the game. Both shots were short but not off too far. His first basket from him came with 4:35 left in the first quarter, a midrange jumper from the right wing. Sharpe left the game shortly after in what appeared to be a routine substitution. He remained on the bench with a warmup shirt on the entire second quarter and at halftime, the team announced he had a shoulder injury and wouldn’t return.
Trail Blazers head coach Steve Hetzel said he didn’t see when the injury occurred and thought Sharpe was fine when he subbed him out.
“I didn’t see the injury exactly, I think he hit it on the floor,” Hetzel said after the Blazers’ 81-78 loss. “Walking off the court at halftime, he said he felt good, but we want to be cautious with all our players so we’re going to do our due diligence and figure it out.”
Yahoo Sports’ Senior NBA Insider, Chris Haynes, reported immediately after the game that Sharpe would undergo an MRI on his left shoulder.
The mystery surrounding Sharpe as an NBA player continues.
The Trail Blazers still have three more games in the next week, and the best-case scenario is the medical staff is taking all precautionary measures to rule out anything serious and we’ll see Sharpe back on the court for another game.
Sharpe has participated in all practices leading up to Summer League, and the coaching staff is encouraged by what they’re seeing early.
“He’s been impressive in practice,” Hetzel said. “He has a ton of talent and an easy, smooth way about him. He defends, he listens, he’s coachable and he tries to apply the coaching we’ve given him so I’ve been impressed.”
It was supposed to be a night that showcased why Sharpe is a top-10 talent. Instead, Sharpe played only five minutes and scored two points on three shot attempts. The waiting game will continue and hopefully the injury isn’t too serious so we can see Sharpe’s athleticism in the open court on full display, his deep range from the 3-point line and the way he plays above the rim with his insane vertical and power — all things that made him the No. 1 player coming out of high school.
The Trail Blazers’ next game is Saturday at 10 pm ET (ESPN2) against the New Orleans Pelicans.