Shaedon Sharpe handles the ball at Portland's first summer league practice
Shaedon Sharpe handles the ball at Portland's first summer league practice

Shaedon Sharpe Returns To Five-On-Five On His First Day

There’s always a lot of take in on the first day of summer league practices. The players who were on the roster the season before typically have an understanding of terminology, sets and principles the team employs and expectations from the coaching staff, but for everybody else, it’s a crash course in what it means to be a Trail Blazer.

“I thought it went really well,” said Steve Hetzel, who is Portland’s acting head coach for summer league. “We have a good group of core players that are going to be playing with us, so they have a lot of internal knowledge to just hit the floor running. What we say and what we install, they already know, so the execution level is high. Our rookies, they’re ready to go, so they applied what we taught pretty easily as well. I was happy with today.”

And for one of those rookies, Shaedon Sharpe, the first day of summer league practice was not only his first as a professional, it was also his return to playing five-on-five basketball.

Sharpe, who the Trail Blazers selected with the seventh overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, attended Kentucky last season, though he only practiced with the Wildcats before deciding to make the jump to the NBA. He went through five-on-five workouts with the Wildcats on a few occasions, but for the most part, the 6-6 guard hadn’t played anything akin to an actual game since high school.

At least not until Saturday’s morning practice at the Trail Blazers’ facility in Tualatin.

“It was pretty solid, got to go up and down, play five-on-five, really just get to know the sets and the defense,” said Sharpe. “So it was a really good day today.”

Donning a No. 17 practice jersey, Sharpe went through Saturday’s two-hour practice, his first as a Trail Blazer, and displayed no signs of fatigue when talking to the media afterwards despite his return to five-on-five play. Sharpe has played plenty of basketball in the last month while participating in group workouts -- something of a rarity these days for players selected in the Top 10 -- during the pre-draft process, so his stamina wasn’t expected to be an issue. And by all accounts, it wasn’t.

“(Sharpe) is a terrific athlete and he’s in great shape,” said Hetzel, “so the plan is just to coach him like a basketball player right now.”

Sharpe noted that he played both on and off the ball during Saturday’s practice and Hetzel implied the rookie would be sharing time at both shooting guard and small forward with Keon Johnson. He also impressed one of his fellow rookies in the process.

“I was just thinking, when I see him do some things I’m like ‘He’s going to be a problem.’” said Jabari Walker, who was also participating in his first pro practice after being drafted with the 57th pick in last week’s draft. “He’s ready.”

At least for summer league. The Trail Blazers will likely be measured in their approach to Sharpe’s development considering he didn’t play competitively last season and he turned 19 just over a month ago, but as far as first days go, Sharpe’s was both a successful debut and a return.

“It’s been a minute since I’ve played five-in-five with refs and even fans,” said Sharpe. ”I feel like I picked some things up quickly but most of the things we did, I’ve never heard the terminology of it. But it’s cool, new defenses and offenses.”