WKU Basketball: What Retaining Jamarion Sharp Means for the Tops
We already knew WKU had some pieces, but when Sharp announced that he was entering his name into the transfer portal...
It was an absolute tailspin moment for WKU Basketball. We all know Rick Stansbury is in “put up or shut up” mode for the Tops. After six years of close calls, he, like everyone else, is starving for a breakthrough. And frankly, it’s time to kick the frickin’ door in, Tops.
To his credit, he’s been absolutely busting his rump trying to put together the best possible version of WKU Basketball in quite some time. This current roster should surpass last season and the season before, as well. It should rival the potential roster of the Mitchell Robinson/Jordan Brangers fiasco of 2017-18, when the whole roster melted down to barely a fieldable team right before the season. Somehow the Tops were more than competitive, and it was one of Rick Stansbury’s better coaching jobs, right up there with this last season, when he dug the Tops out of a historic hole to find a bye in the C-USA Tournament
But up until a week ago (and probably a little earlier than that if we’re being truthful) when Jamarion Sharp officially announced entering into the transfer portal, things were going swimmingly. Until rumors starting swirling in the absolute stankalicious toilet that is post-NIL intercollegiate athletics, WKU had landed a high level UK transfer who was a lifetime resident of Kentucky who could play the wing (Dontaie Allen), and two JUCO forwards to bolster the size lost from transfers Jairus Hamilton (who potentially could still return in theory), Isaiah Cozart, and Jaylen Butz. In addition, WKU’s need for another point guard option and really options at the guard positions came from commitments from (long foregone conclusion former Topper boomerang) Jordan Rawls and Khristian Lander, a former five star recruit out of Evansville, another fairly local draw.
But all of that was built assuming everything else stays intact and maybe the Tops add one more big piece (probably another guard). That wasn’t assuming that the most obvious NBA prospect on the team would suddenly get cold feet and enter the transfer portal.
Well, obviously he did and it sent everybody into a panic. I mean it was everyone’s absolute worst nightmare. Patrick Sparks 2.0 level betrayal. First it was rumors that few could verify and no one could confirm that Mizzou and Louisville were tampering with Sharp. “Oh they’ve gotten to his family. This is not good.” Then the rumbling turns to public grumblings about NIL from people that are connected to the program, mostly media and insiders. Then it was announced that he likely was going to enter the portal and that Mizzou was the most likely suitor because his former JUCO coach was there. Then he actually did it. Then it was “just a matter of time until he announced” and then…
All of a sudden, Towel Rack and others do their best impression of Hilltopper Haven and start dropping hints that big, good news is about to drop. “Bobby Knight is the next coach of WKU Basketball” level mysteriousness. Meanwhile, I’m sure WKU was scrambling trying to just get the big man to see that WKU is the best place to be. It’s his dream school, folks! He almost certainly was offered six to seven figures to jump ship and he stayed put. If you would pause for a moment while I scream from atop Cherry Hall:
Calling all people with extra money and businesses!!!
NIL the crap out of that young man! He’s BACK!
And show some love to Dayvion McKnight while you’re at it, because I’m pretty sure he and Dontaie Allen probably played a huge role in getting him to stay.
“But he’s back, though…so what does it mean?”
What it means is WKU is back to being the most interesting team in Conference USA. I believe Rick Stansbury is still out there looking for another guard and maybe another big (assuming Jairus Hamilton does not return to The Hill).
But WKU stands as having five or six really good options that could play multiple guard positions each if they needed to. You have Luke Frampton who is now likely coming off of the bench. Jordan Rawls will also be a versatile sub that could play point or be a shooting guard. Dayvion McKnight or Khristian Lander could both easily play point or shooting guard. And finally Dontaie Allen could easily play anywhere from the 2-4 position at times if he needed to, although he’s naturally a small forward.
As far as the bigs, with Sharp, you have your big man, you have Darrius Miles (who everyone forgets but brings a lot of size), and you have two JUCO guys that bring size that can shoot and score and play some defense at power or small forward. Or they could even fill in at center at times if they were needed there.
Ultimately, without another single addition, WKU has depth and options at every position. There is a full two deep depth chart from the one to five spot using nine players that legitimately could earn a spot in the rotation, and that doesn’t include Noah Stansbury or Elijah Hughey (who we know little about). But if WKU happens to add more talent, it really just continues to raise the bar. WKU goes from a likely co-favorite or contender with several schools (UNT and UAB for sure) to possibly being the stone cold favorite once again.
Imagine, though if Jairus Hamilton happens to come back. He’s still snooping around looking for a better situation. But have you heard any news of him landing anywhere? I haven’t. I imagine he would be welcomed back, considering there are scholarships available and he would be a returning starter to a position without a guaranteed star.
Imagine if WKU could find another guard that could fill in or take a starting spot. Taking a starting spot would mean ousting a five star talent or a First Team All-Conference player, so that’s incredibly unlikely. However, imagine adding someone, anyone, else.
It’s a scary thought how good Western could be if it’s blessed with 7 or 8 starter level players. But if they just maintain equilibrium, they’re at that point.
Is there any doubt Jordan Rawls probably would have started every year since he left? He was a starter as a freshman. Luke Frampton? Almost certainly now a bench player but has a good resume as a Division I ball player. One of the three of Darrius Miles, Tyrone Marshall, and Fallou Diagne will definitely be a starter level player barring unforeseen issues. Maybe all of them will be good immediately. We don’t know that until se see some exhibition games. I’ve already tantalized you with thoughts of Jairus Hamilton, although we seriously have zero foundation to believe he’s coming back at this point. But of course, he would be a really quality asset. And then there are your four rock solid starters in Sharp, Allen, Lander, and McKnight.
That’s a heck of a cast set to go on stage. If only they can make it to opening night…ohh how majestically the Guthrie bells shall ring.
It’s up to them and it’s up to Rick Stansbury and his staff, but if this momentum stays intact or builds all the way to November, this will be the biggest buzz heading into any season of Rick Stansbury’s career at Western Kentucky.
Agree about Rawls freshman year. I thought we had a 30 minute player. Went to Georgia State stared off poorly got even worse and was buried down the depth chart. Let us hope he can return to his frosh game.
“Put up or shut up”? I’m glad the rest of the article was pretty good, with a few exceptions. Every year, you, and others, fill pages with YOUR expectations based on what you’ve read about these guys. Then things don’t go according to YOUR expectations and you blame Coach Stansbury.
Frampton off the bench? Maybe, but not a sure thing knowing his shooting ability and leading the team in charges taken, which means he does work hard at defense, which is not the same for Hamilton. Hamilton didn’t work on defense either. Nor Butz.
You think Allen is the answer? I hope he is, but he doesn’t play defense either. And before you say he’s a better shooter than Frampton, I’ll take Frampton’s attitude and hustle UNTIL Allen shows me more than he did at UK.
Quit building up crazy expectations then getting mad when they don’t come to the surface and blame it on Stansbury.
Let’s back the guys and see what happens. Let him coach and you write your articles, since you have no experience coaching at all.
Take care Matt. I know you mean well.