Sharpe played in Canada as a pro for the first time on Sunday as the Toronto Raptors hosted Portland, and Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups had kind words for his 19-year-old rookie from London, Ont.
"Shae is uber-talented, obviously. It's been a delight just coaching him. He listens. Picks up things pretty quickly. He's been playing really well," Billups said before tipoff. "And obviously for a young guy like that who its always going to be up and down, especially because he hasn't played actual basketball in a while … games, if you will."
Sharpe was the proverbial dark horse of the June draft, taken No. 7 overall despite the complete absence of any recent game footage of the six-foot-six player, who went to the University of Kentucky for a semester but then opted to put his name in the draft before playing a game for the Wildcats.
Video of the high-flying guard created a big buzz on social media ahead of the draft. The video shows Sharpe doing a vertical leap test. He takes two steps then touches above the top of the gauge, what would have been an NBA combine record if the gauge was indeed the regulation 48 inches.
Sharpe didn't get the chance to get his NBA feet wet in summer league after suffering a shoulder injury in his first game.
"I really thought coming into the season that him not even being able to play summer league really hurt him," Billups said. "But he's done a good job, man. He works his butt off. He is starting to understand the cadence of the NBA. And he has been playing well on both ends."
Sharpe has averaged 7.8 points in 19.6 minutes with five starts, and his athleticism earned him an invitation to compete in the slam dunk contest during NBA all-star weekend on Feb. 18 in Salt Lake City.
Billups said Sharpe is adjusting well to the NBA game.
"I have been very surprised with him and his development so far. And there's some games that he looks like he’s a six or seven year vet. And there’s some games where he looks like he's 20 years old," Billups said. "But his skill level is unmatched, it really is. I mean, the athlete that he is.
"People just talk about his dunking and things like that but it’s just special with his footwork, his ball handling, he shoots it very easy, there is just a gracefulness about him that he is blessed with that most guys don't have.
"But he doesn't just rest on that. He's putting the work in which is good to see for a young guy."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2022.
The Canadian Press