Bowling Green, Ky. -- Whenever Jamarion Sharp walks into the gym at Western Kentucky, Division I basketball's tallest player always brings his puppy.
For the 7-foot-5 center and last year's top shot-blocker (4.6 BPG), his dog, Joker -- a mixed-breed he purchased with his name, image and likeness cash two weeks ago -- is a best friend and a responsibility. Sharp said he hopes the puppy will help him mature.
"It's like having a child," said Sharp, who is taking Joker to the vet for the first time Saturday. "He's a quiet dog, actually. I thought, 'I have the money right now and I want a puppy.' I have everything I need for a puppy, so I went and got one."
Sharp, who averaged 8.2 points per game last season, said he named his puppy Joker because his brother Trevon, who died in 2010 of sickle cell disease, also had a dog with that name. When Sharp was younger, his mother wouldn't allow him to have dogs because they reminded her of his brother.
But Sharp said his new puppy is his connection to his sibling.
"I always wanted a dog growing up but I never got one [after my brother died]," Sharp told ESPN.
Joker is a handful, albeit a cute one, for the entire Hilltoppers men's basketball program. He attends every practice, where trainers and others all help care for him while Sharp works on his game. If you see Sharp, however, you will also see Joker. They are inseparable.
"It's a good feeling because I have someone that's going to be loyal to me all the time, for the rest of my life, for the rest of his life," Sharp said. "All I have to do is feed him, love him and take him out and play with him."