BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky — Just ahead of Jamarion Sharp dipped his head so he could match by means of the door of a regional Mexican restaurant, it occurred to him — the factor that constantly takes place when you are almost as tall as a Christmas tree — once more.
A young man who’d just pulled up to El Mazatlan, a regional spot, stopped walking as he passed Sharp. He almost dropped his telephone as he attempted to grasp the towering shadow of Western Kentucky’s 7-foot-five (that is no typo) shot-blocking star.
“Whoa!” he mentioned to Sharp. “Bro, you … Bro, you have to play basketball?”
Sharp never ever broke his stride.
“Yeah,” he mentioned, as he shook his head and smiled. “Something like that.”
Division I men’s college basketball’s tallest player would stand out in New York City or Los Angeles, as well. But this is Bowling Green, Kentucky, a blue-collar town in the middle of America. Down right here, the National Corvette Museum, a series of caves and a minor league group named the Hot Rods are the largest attractions.
In Bowling Green, Sharp is Paul Bunyan. He has a 7-foot-7 wingspan and wears a size 18 shoe in a planet in which only two,800 of the virtually eight billion population is 7 feet tall — and only ten individuals have, reportedly, ever grown taller than eight feet.
“Since I got to Western Kentucky, my image has changed and individuals have began to recognize me,” Sharp told ESPN. “And then, I began to go out to areas and individuals would just appear up and go, ‘Wow, you are tall.'”
Sharp mentioned he when resented the consideration, but now he embraces the enjoy that surrounds him in his second season at Western Kentucky. Through a turbulent year, one particular filled with losing streaks and head coach Rick Stansbury’s overall health challenges, the significant man with the giant character has been a rock for the plan, which hopes to halt a different prospective losing streak when it hosts Louisiana Tech (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, CBSSN).
Wherever he goes, he indicators autographs, requires photographs with fans and smirks anytime an individual asks him a query about his height — or if he’s a basketball player.
As element of a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal, a regional furnishings shop placed 3 huge billboards displaying Sharp with his arms stretched wide across town. It looked like he was palming the city.
The deal helped him purchase a vehicle appropriate for his frame. No longer scrunched into undersized autos, Sharp owns a new Jeep Cherokee. It’s best for him — if he moves the seat all the way back, leaving just adequate area for himself and his new puppy, Joker.
“You can not sit behind me,” Sharp mentioned, “unless you are genuinely tiny.”
He maintains an easygoing vibe about his height and the magnifying glass that comes with it, in this town of 73,000 that is filled with old manufacturing plants and strip malls.
enjoy this small guy with all my heart🖤🖤🖤 pic.twitter.com/4yPhunlh6K
— Jamarion (@Jaammaarion) October 11, 2022
As a kid expanding up roughly 62 miles west, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, nonetheless, Sharp hated the consideration his frame attracted. He recalled refusing to go to WalMart with his mother for the reason that individuals would constantly come up to them to ask queries:
How tall are you?
Which basketball group do you play for?
What’s it like up there?
So, he began wearing a customized hoodie that study, “Yes, I Play Ball, I’m 7-five and the Weather is Good Up Here.” Back then, Sharp hadn’t completely understood his talents and prospective. He was just a lanky teen who kept expanding.
Between his sophomore and junior years of higher college, Sharp went from six-foot-five to 7 feet. His family members knew some thing was altering, quickly, when he started to hit his head on the ceiling lights in the home that he’d been in a position to stroll beneath just months prior.
“We had been Black Friday purchasing and he was in higher college, standing at like 7-foot-two,” Jaqualis Matlock, Sharp’s brother, remembered. “And he was attempting to hide from individuals as we walked about the mall. And everyone was seeking. I told him, ‘You can not hide from individuals. You’re tall. You’re unique.'”
At the time, Sharp never ever envisioned a future in basketball. He did not enjoy the sport and thought of it a pastime in higher college, exactly where he played restricted minutes. While his close friends talked about the NBA games they’d watched more than the weekend, Sharp was much more focused on his drawings. He nevertheless loves to sketch cartoon characters by hand. He was much more of an artist than a basketball player, he mentioned.
But then, Sharp got dunked on. During a competitive higher college game, the then-7-foot-tall junior watched the crowd explode immediately after a smaller sized player rose above the rim and slammed on him. He vowed then to make confident he’d never ever get embarrassed like that once more.
“It genuinely did modify factors, I kid you not,” Sharp mentioned. “At the time, I did not assume about it. But seeking back, it genuinely changed my life. Because ahead of then, I genuinely did not take basketball all that seriously.”
During a stint at Logan College, a junior college in Carterville, Illinois, Sharp started to evolve on the court. His shot-blocking instincts matured, and Division I applications took notice and started calling. Sharp mentioned he picked Western Kentucky for the reason that of the partnership he’d established with the employees in higher college, one particular of the handful of applications from a significant conference to recruit him then.
“[It has been great to see the progress] he’s created from a guy that came in with zero expectations,” Stansbury mentioned. “His really feel for the game was considerably greater than we believed. He’s been pretty tough. To my understanding, he’s never ever missed a practice.”
The partnership has enhanced the player and the plan. Sharp leads the nation in blocks per game (four.three) and block percentage at 16.six%, which suggests he has blocked 16.six% of opposing teams’ shots inside the arc, per KenPom. For comparison, Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis completed with a 13.75% block price in the course of his lone season at Kentucky in 2011-12.
Along with the defensive talent that has helped Western Kentucky amass a winning record (14-13), in spite of two separate 5-game losing streaks, Sharp (7. PPG, 7.three RPG, 65% clip inside the arc) has also develop into a greater leader, according to his teammates. Last year, he admitted, he would sulk on the bench anytime he drew a foul or missed an assignment.
This year, he tries to remain good and encourage his teammates by means of tough moments.
“From final year to this year, he’s much more vocal now,” Hilltoppers guard Dayvion McKnight mentioned. “He’s a lot much more comfy. And it’ll maintain going up from right here. I do not assume there is anyone like that. He’s one particular of these defenders you be concerned about ahead of you ever get to the rim.”
At El Mazatlan, Sharp attempted to be polite and squeeze into a booth. He did not want to inconvenience the employees. But a waitress noticed the tight match and agreed to move his bench and rearrange the seating region to make much more area for him.
The Western Kentucky standout then stuffed tacos into his mouth, as element of a program to add much more weight to his 235-pound frame. He eats six occasions a day. At his size, he requirements the fuel.
As he ate, a boy sitting nearby with his parents stared. He had the incredulous appear of a kid who believed a human getting could be that tall only in a cartoon or a dream.
Sharp noticed, turned toward the boy and grinned, acknowledging that he was, in reality, genuine.
“Even if I go out there and do not do my greatest that everybody expects, youngsters nevertheless come up to me with a significant smile on their face and ask me for photographs and autographs,” he mentioned. “And they inform me I had a great game. It tends to make me really feel great inside.”