Sharpe pursues basketball dream in Australia
Jeylyn Sharpe drives in to score against the East Perth Eagles on April 7 at Neils Hansen Basketball Stadium in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. He scored 20 points in 35 minutes and is averaging 23.8 points per game. TRAVIS ANDERSON/COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Jeylyn Sharpe is one of three Americans playing for the Goldfields Giants, a professional basketball club in the State Basketball League of Western Australia. Sharpe is a guard and forward and was voted vice captain only weeks after arriving in February. COURTESY
Jeylyn Sharpe, upper left, was recently named to the 2018 State Basketball League All-Star Games to be held June 4-5 in Mount Claremont, Western Australia, the only Goldfields Giants player given the honor. COURTESY
KALGOORLIE, Western Australia – From Europe to Western Australia, Cherokee Nation citizen Jeylyn Sharpe is making a name for himself overseas as a professional basketball player.
“I get to continue to play the sport I love, get paid for it and see the world,” Sharpe said. “If I didn’t take the opportunity then I would never get that chance again and probably regret not doing it.”
The 6-foot-5-inch standout from Ketchum, Oklahoma, said he didn’t seriously consider playing professionally until after his senior season at Rogers State University, where he accumulated 1,125 career points and was named the 2017 Heartland Conference Player of the Year.
Emails and Facebook messages from agents overseas wanting to represent him eventually led Sharpe to signing a professional contract in 2017 with BBC Grengewald Hueschtert of the Nationale 2 League in Niederanven, Luxembourg.
With help from an RSU assistant coach, the transition from collegiate to professional play was seamless.
“After my senior season in college, he put me through a lot of workouts to get me prepared,” Sharpe said. “The pace of play at the next level is faster. The shot clock time is shorter. You always hear ‘Europeans are very fundamental’ and you don’t really get an understanding of that until you play there. We were doing drills I use to do in elementary school. That’s how we would start our workouts and work our way up to the more difficult things.”
Sharpe also gave a “special thank you” to the same coach for fostering a connection with Australia after his season in Europe ended. Listed as a guard and forward, Sharpe is one of three Americans playing for the Goldfields Giants, a professional club in the State Basketball League of Western Australia.
“I am very fortunate to be at a place that feels like a big family, all the way from the owner down to the water boy,” he said. “The owner, GM (general manager) and coaches have all had us over at their house multiple times for dinner or just to relax and hang out. My teammates are great. I have never once questioned their effort on the court.”
Though struggling in the win column, Sharpe said he’s confident in the team’s direction.
“Our games have been a fight all the way to the end. Sadly the win and loss column doesn’t show that,” he said. “But we are a team that has stuck together the whole time and never pointed fingers at one another. By the end of this we hope to be a playoff team and keep playing into September, hopefully being a championship contender.”
As for the style of play overseas, Sharpe said there are differences. “In college, we had a lot of set plays and quick hitter offenses to score, but out in Australia and Luxembourg we just have different type of motion offenses and they let us play out of it. They know we are good smart players and they expect us to make the correct decision.”
Sharpe recorded one of his best games against the Mandurah Magic on May 12, accounting for 38 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals as the team won 105-104. He is also the only Giant named to the 2018 SBL All-Star Games to be held June 4-5 in Mount Claremont.
When asked what he brings to the team, Sharpe said his energy and basketball IQ. “In college I played a little bit of guard some times and a little bit of a post. I would also have to guard posts and guards in college, so I can do the same at this level. I try to be the guy that you can put anywhere on the court and you can have confidence that I will get the job you are asking done.”
Sharpe’s dedication and leadership have not gone unnoticed by coaches and teammates, who voted him vice captain after arriving in February. “I was honored that they picked me as vice captain after only being there a few weeks. I think that they saw the knowledge and leadership I bring to the table. You don’t have to be a leader with just your voice. You can set the example by your actions, and I think the team saw me do that day in and day out.”
Playing overseas has also allowed Sharpe to take the Cherokee culture to that part of the world.
“It is cool to be able to tell them that I am Native American and that I am Cherokee,” he said. “I get to show them some pictures of my ancestors, and I know a little bit of Cherokee language, so I am able to show them what that sounds like. It’s great to get an opportunity to show other young Native Americans that goals are achievable if you work hard enough.”
As for the future, Sharpe said he’s “going with the flow.”
“I have been going with the flow lately, just letting this basketball take me around the world,” he said. “I would really like to play in China and Dubai before I am done playing. After this season I will be spending some quality time at home with family and friends. I really do enjoy it out here and can see myself coming back for another season.”