TyTy Washington out, Sahvir Wheeler in against Mississippi State. Shaedon Sharpe sits.

Alex Slitz/aslitz@herald-leader.com
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Kentucky guard TyTy Washington did not play for the Wildcats against Mississippi State on Tuesday night, Coach John Calipari confirmed in his pregame interview about 30 minutes before tipoff.

ESPN NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony reported Tuesday afternoon that Washington would be out for the game against the Bulldogs with a left ankle injury sustained in Saturday’s loss at now-No. 1 Auburn. In that game, Washington landed awkwardly after making a shot midway through the first half. He was taken to the UK locker room and ruled out at halftime.

UK point guard Sahvir Wheeler was also injured late in the Auburn game, but he was in the starting lineup against Mississippi State on Tuesday night. Wheeler started alongside Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz, Keion Brooks and Oscar Tshiebwe.

Kentucky defeated Mississippi State, 82-74, in overtime.

ESPN ranks Washington as the No. 11 prospect for this year’s NBA Draft. He is averaging 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, while shooting 39.7 percent from three-point range. With Wheeler sidelined with a neck injury earlier this season, Washington broke John Wall’s school record with 17 assists in a single game.

Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland said Monday that he expected Washington to play and would plan for Tuesday’s game as if the star UK freshman would be on the court.

“He was amazing when Wheeler was out,” Howland said. “I watched the game that he had 17 assists in and was just blown away by his basketball IQ, and how he saw the floor so well, and how he shared the ball so well and still scored well. He’s really an incredible scorer. He’s very good off the dribble. He’s a good catch-and-shoot guy. He’s got a great handle. Very, very smart.

“He’s just another one of the typical outstanding freshmen that have come through that program over the years.”

With Washington out, even more attention was pointed toward UK newcomer Shaedon Sharpe, who was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2022 class before deciding to enroll in college early and join the Wildcats for the rest of this season.

The original plan was for Sharpe to practice only with the team this season and then make his playing debut at the start of the 2022-23 season, though John Calipari has left the door open for a debut sometime in the next few weeks. Sharpe did not play Tuesday night.

Sharpe — a 6-foot-5 shooting guard — joined the team just this month and had not fully practiced with his new teammates until the past couple of days. Calipari said on his weekly radio show Monday that he didn’t think Sharpe was ready to play against Auburn on Saturday, before noting that the star recruit was impressive in Monday’s practice.

“I think our team would like me to put him in,” the UK coach said Monday. “We’re doing stuff, and something happens in practice — he does something — and they all kind of look at me like, ‘C’mon, now. That’s who he is? Put him in.’ But you got to make sure you’re looking after him.”

ESPN ranks Sharpe as the No. 6 prospect in this year’s NBA Draft, though he could be back at Kentucky for the 2022-23 season. He was viewed as one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers in high school basketball before his reclassification.

“You just got to get a lot of reps in,” Calipari said of not wanting to rush Sharpe. “So I’m trying to get him more reps, and we did stuff today. If he plays, you’ve got to say, ‘We’re only doing these two or three things.’ He’s only been here a couple of weeks. You throw him in the game, say, ‘Okay, we’re gonna go five up, side angle ...’ What? You better do some really simple stuff and let him do what he does.

“What does he do? He scores the ball. So you say, ‘Look, you won’t believe this. When you get in, score the ball.’ And that’s if we choose to play him. I’m not sure yet what we’ll do.”

Kentucky will play at No. 5 Kansas on Saturday.

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