At 7-5, center WKU Jamarion Sharp has intriguing potential

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Since Jamarion Sharp (33) was inserted into the Western Kentucky starting lineup seven games ago, the Hopkinsville 7-foot-5 center has averaged 9.8 points, 9 rebounds and 5.9 shots blocked per game.

Since Jamarion Sharp (33) was inserted into the Western Kentucky starting lineup seven games ago, the Hopkinsville 7-foot-5 center has averaged 9.8 points, 9 rebounds and 5.9 shots blocked per game.

Western Kentucky University Athletics

Growing up in Hopkinsville, Jamarion Sharp remembers spending his eighth grade staring his classmates in the eye.

It was the following year that Sharp returned from summer vacation and found himself looking down on everyone in school.

At this point, Sharp was 6 feet 6 inches tall.

What would become Sharp’s multi-year growth “push” still had almost a foot to go.

“Every year it was the same thing: ‘Oh wow, I just keep getting bigger and bigger,’ says Sharp.

If you’ve paid close attention to the 2021-22 Kentucky men’s college basketball season, you know Sharp.

Inserted by Rick Stansbury into Western Kentucky University’s starting lineup seven games ago, the 7-foot-5 Sharp has established himself as the most intriguing college hooper in the Commonwealth.

As a starter, Sharp is averaging 9.8 points, 9 rebounds and 5.9 blocked shots. He helped Western go 6-1 after starting Season 1-3.

At 2:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sharp will have their biggest stage yet as WKU (7-4) host foe Instrastate Louisville (7-3) at EA Diddle Arena.

“I’m ready for this game,” said Sharp. “I know the arena will be full and filled with gyms like this, that’s when I play my best.”

In his seven games in the starting lineup, Sharp already has a triple-double – 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in his first WKU start against Alabama A&M.

The great junior player has already played a starring role in an intrastate grudge match, hitting Eastern Kentucky with 17 points and 14 boards in the Hilltoppers’ 85-80 win over their former rivals.

Saturday night in Atlanta, paving the way for an inspired Western team playing just hours after a tornado caused substantial damage near the WKU campus in Bowling Green, Sharp baffled a Southeastern Conference foe.

The great man from the West had 16 points, nine boards and six blocked shots as the Hilltoppers plastered the Mississippi 71-48 during the “Holiday Hoopsgiving” event at State Farm Arena.

“An intimidating force around that goal,” Mississippi coach Kermit Davis said of Sharp. “He had six blocks and probably modified another seven, eight or nine (strokes)… with our guards in the paint looking for him.” He was a big gun underneath, that’s for sure.

For the season, Sharp is averaging 7.6 points per game, 7.8 rpg and leads the country in blocked shots at 4.91 per game. He succeeds 68.4% of his field goal attempts and 37.5% of his free throws.

Jamarion Sharp blocking the shot.JPG
In the Dec. 15 games, Western Kentucky center Jamarion Sharp (33) leads NCAA Division I men’s basketball in blocked shots, averaging 4.91 per game. Steve roberts Western Kentucky University Athletics

The proverbial “last bloomer” that didn’t spend a full semester playing basketball at John A. Logan College in Illinois, even Sharp is surprised at the impact he’s having.

“It’s better than I expected,” Sharp said Thursday morning.

The period of growth that took Sharp from a 6-6 high school freshman to a 7-5 college junior has been slow and steady.

High school men’s coach Tim Haworth, the former manager of Hopkinsville, said Sharp was a 6-8 junior in 2017-18.

“He maybe got to 6-9 of his junior year, my last year there in Hoptown,” says Haworth. “Then he continued to grow. He became a 7 footer in Hoptown (as a senior) the following year after I left.

At John A. Logan, they scored Sharp at 7-3.

Now at 7-5 in his first year at WKU, is it possible that Sharp will still grow taller?

“I hope not,” he said. “Seven foot five is tall. To be over 7-5 years old is too big.

There are some unique issues that come with being 7-5.

“Hit my head on things,” Sharp says of challenge number one. “I was walking through the tunnel to enter the arena (Diddle) and thought I had my head down enough to miss it – but I didn’t. I hit the concrete with my head. It hurts.”

Buying clothes at 7-5 can be a complex task.

“For the pants, it’s quite difficult,” says Sharp. “Jackets and the like, it’s not that hard because you can get a 2X or an extra large. Pants are tough because no one has 7-5. So no one has such long legs. Companies don’t really make pants that long.

His saving grace, Sharp says, is the “Big and Tall” section of Nike.com. “I’m comfortable with sweatpants,” he says.

If that weren’t true, you’d think the story of Sharp’s birth in WKU is, well, a big story.

In February 2018, Stansbury traveled to Christian County High School to spot the 8th District Tournament Semifinals game between Hopkinsville and University Heights Academy.

“I think he was there to see KyKy Tandy,” Haworth said of the then UHA star.

The WKU official noticed Sharp on the Hopkinsville bench.

“We were talking and (Stansbury) said, ‘What about the big kid? “, Recalls Haworth. “I said, ‘I think he has a chance to be a pro someday. It’s just a late bloomer.

To give the Western frontman a chance to see Sharp’s potential, Haworth worked him out at halftime. “I had him pull jump hooks over his left and right shoulders,” Haworth recalls.

Stansbury liked what he saw enough to offer Sharp a scholarship to Western Kentucky after the game.

After Sharp showed enough promise as a junior player to attract offers from Baylor, Louisville, Oregon, San Diego State, South Carolina and West Virginia, he remembered who had been the first to see him as a university hope.

WKU “is where my heart was,” says Sharp.

Across 11 games at Western, Sharp’s offensive production has come almost exclusively from dunks – either flashbacks or the coming and going of pick-and-rolls.

Sharp says – and Haworth backs him – he has more offensive skills than he currently shows.

“My free throws and my hooks, before the game (s) and in practice, I knock them out,” said Sharp. “During the match (s), it’s more difficult. I think about it too much and I miss it.

Jamarion Sharp hopes you continue to see his game grow, although he hopes he has stopped growing at 7-5.

Saturday

Louisville in western Kentucky

When: 3 p.m. EST

TV: CBS-27

Recordings: Louisville 7-3, Western Kentucky 7-4

Series: Louisville leads 42-39.

Last meeting: Louisville won 75-54 on December 1, 2020, in Louisville.

This story was originally published December 16, 2021 4:19 pm.

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Mark Story has worked in the sports department of the Lexington Herald-Leader since August 27, 1990 and has been the Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK- basketball. U of L. match but three since 1996-97 and each Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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