Red Towel Roundtable: Who Will Be The Next Drafted Hilltopper?
With the 2022 NBA Draft officially in the books, it got us thinking: Who will be the next Hilltopper to hear his name called by Adam Silver?
Maybe it’s just me, but as a non-NBA watcher, this year’s draft lacked a certain…something…about it. It certainly didn’t help that, unlike in 2021, a Hilltopper wasn’t in the fray, with each pick a roller coaster of emotions as it came and went (and, eventually, came) when seeing what Charles Bassey’s pro destination would be.
While the 2022 draft didn’t have a Hilltopper flare, it isn’t out of the question future ones will - from power transfer players to finding JUCO diamonds in the rough, the roster isn’t only coming together nicely for WKU’s in-season success, but for making pros come from the Hill as well.
With all that said, lets dive into the question on everyone’s mind: Who will be the next Hilltopper to get drafted to the NBA?
I’m no Ross Shircliffe or a lot of you other Hilltopper historians out there, but I’d put up the last decade or so of WKU guards (with the exception of the lost couple of years at the end of Ray Harper’s tenure and the first year under Rick Stansbury) with any in the program’s history. From T.J. Price and Brandon Harris to Taveion Hollingsworth and Josh Anderson and, now, with Dayvion McKnight, WKU fans have enjoyed some exciting (albeit it, at times, frustrating) backcourt play.
Well, I think soon, that rich history is going to pay dividends on the biggest stage, as I think we’ll hear Dontaie Allen’s name called in New York.
A former Mr. Kentucky Basketball and a Top 75 prospect at the time of his commitment to Kentucky, Allen not only bring’s the pedigree to WKU that many might say the program needs in the midst of it’s longest tournament drought in program history, but will bring the confidence to the floor not only to elevate his own play, but those around him (especially in his back-court partner with McKnight) to make WKU can’t-miss.
At the time of his commitment to UK, 247Sports’ Evan Daniels said that he “has a chance to turn himself into a NBA prospect,” with continued development, noting his size (6’6”) and scoring ability.
While not the projected lottery pick Mitchell Robinson or pre-injury Charles Bassey were touted as, WKU’s recent draft success should continue in the coming years, and I think there’s a chance Allen is the first of several we could see in the league.
When looking at who the next NBA #ProTops player could be, there are definitely a few players on the current roster that have potential of playing professionally but my choice quite literally rises above the rest: Jamarion Sharp.
At 7’5 and 225 lbs, the Hopkinsville native averaged 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and tallied 148 total blocks last season. While his scoring doesn’t pop out, his defense does. He had more blocks as one player than several D1 teams did as a team last season and it’s made him a bigger name prospect.
Obviously his height and defensive abilities are the reason he would be looked at by an NBA team. If Tacko Fall can land on an NBA roster just for having size I think Sharp could too. Sharp is more agile and athletic than Fall despite being a little more raw than he was. Now that Sharp has had a full season under his belt (and of course if he stays healthy) I think he can really make a name for himself, especially if he can average a double double and still have as many blocks as he did last season.
We may be another year or two from having another Hilltopper draftee, but either way, it’s definitely raising some excitement.
The NBA is adapting in a lot of ways but one thing that stays the same is the growing anomaly of tall defenders. This definitely includes none other than the tallest college basketball player in the country, Jamarion Sharp.
At 7’5”, the highly touted JUCO transfer would be a great addition for development purposes.
In recent seasons, the successes of Tacko Fall, Bol Bol & Boban Marjanovic have translated well into showing scouts the high rewards of an above-average height/build. Sharp’s ability as a shot-blocker should be enough to grab some attention from teams who depend more on their front court. The potential to be great starts with fundamentals and a coaching system that isn’t hesitant to let the big man shine.
Who wouldn’t want the nation’s leading shot-blocker to help lead a team to the Larry O’Brien trophy?
Some may utterly laugh at the idea that several WKU players on this current roster could get drafted. But honestly, the upside potential is there for several to get drafted in my opinion. It’s all hypothetical, but who is to say several of these guys won’t get drafted at some point? Dontaie Allen is a high level prospect. Dayvion McKnight could easily end up an All-American for the Tops if he can reduce his turnovers. Khristian Lander is a shooter. Heck, even the JUCO transfers Fallou Diagne and Tyrone Marshall provide big bodies that can shoot. And honestly, what about Jairus Hamilton? He is probably more of an overseas type of prospect, but if he has a true breakout season and doesn’t fade at the end like he did in 2021-22, he’s got a Power Five build that could be very versatile and shoot in today’s NBA.
But ultimately, I think the most obvious choice to be the next draft pick is Jamarion Sharp. He was already starting to get some buzz last year, simply because he was the tallest player in the nation and flirted with several triple-doubles. Teams started to figure out how to handle him about mid-January and his production suffered or he may have generated enough buzz last year to start the conversation. He has elite athleticism for his size and has wonderful hands. If he’s on a good team and helps spearhead another WKU defense that holds opponents near or under 40% shooting and improves his offense at all and bulks up, I just think he’s an absolute no-brainer of an NBA Draft pick at some point but potentially as early as the 2023 NBA Draft.