Although he has yet to set foot on the hardwood for the University of Kentucky since joining the Wildcats earlier this month, five-star recruit Shaedon Sharpe has begun to cash in with his first major NIL deal.
Vancouver-based sneaker community startup SoleSavy announced today they have signed fellow Canadian Sharpe of Ontario as the brand’s first NIL partner, continuing their focus on connecting with college students.
Sharpe – who graduated high school a semester early – was ESPN’s No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2022 before reclassifying and enrolling at Kentucky this semester. His original plan was to redshirt this season but injuries to the no. 12 Wildcats (15-4) have made an upcoming debut a possibility.
Prior to enrolling at Kentucky, Sharpe enlightened Sports Illustrated on his early decision. “I just want to get a head start on college basketball and train with older, bigger, stronger and better players” said Sharpe. “I’ll do whatever the team needs, but 100% I will be at Kentucky to play next season.”
Since Sharpe turns 19 on May 30 and will be one season removed from high school graduation, he will technically be eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, where he is already projected as a top-10 pick. If he returns to Lexington for a sophomore season, he could propel himself to the top of the 2023 NBA Draft and continue to build his NIL portfolio.
In a recent interview with Kentucky Sports Radio, Sharpe’s former coach and mentor, Dwayne Washington eluded to the money “lost” by coming to Kentucky versus exploring professional opportunities available to the 18-year-old for instance Overtime Elite or the G League. He mentioned turning down “four, five million dollars from every pro situation that was available,” instead choosing the opportunity to develop under Coach John Calipari at Kentucky.
“It’s pretty idiotic. Everybody knew that this was an option, but we’re not taking it,” Washington explained to KSR. “He lost millions coming to school. He came to get better. You come to get ready if you want to go to the NBA, which is one of the goals. You have to be ready. People don’t respect Calipari’s ability to develop enough, that’s why Shaedon’s there.”
A lot can change if and when Sharpe officially begins his Kentucky career this season, especially in the NIL space for the top recruit on one of the strongest college basketball brands in the nation. In the meantime, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard will be working with SoleSavy to help build their community that provides sneakerheads from around the globe exclusive access and insights to the latest launches and direct links to purchase.
The momentum continues for SoleSavy after raising $12.5 million in Series A a few months after wrapping a $2 million seed round.
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