Reed Sheppard leaves Kentucky after first season to enter 2024 NBA Draft

It only took Reed Sheppard one year with the Wildcats to realize he has the potential to play in the big leagues. The freshman told the press this Thursday that he’s “going all-in” for the 2024 NBA Draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility. 

“I’m going all-in,” the 19-year-old said. “The opportunity I have is great. I’ve gotten really good feedback showing where I can be in the draft. I had an unbelievable year at Kentucky. It was such a fun year. It’s not easy leaving the fans and the school I dreamed of playing at. I need to do what’s best for me, and that’s heading to the NBA.”

The Kentucky star is not only considered to be the No. 7 prospect in ESPN’s draft projections, but he also was recently named the SEC freshman of the year and made the second-team all-conference this campaign.

Sheppard posted averages of 2.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game and shooting 52.1% from beyond the arc this season, becoming the first potential first-round pick to shoot over 50% from threes since Glen Rice did in 1989.

“My teammates and coaches put confidence in me, telling me you need to shoot,” he said. “I was fortunate to be able to get in the gym and work with [Kentucky assistant] coach John Welch every day. He’s one of the best trainers you’ll find.”

Coming out of high school Reed became a McDonald’s All American and a top-25 recruit, but no one saw coming that he’d become a lottery pick after a single season in college basketball.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” the rising star assured. “I wasn’t going in with the expectations of what ultimately happened. I knew I was going to do whatever I could to help Kentucky win. If I needed to get the team water, I would get the team water. I was excited to be at my dream school. It’s unbelievable the way it ended up. It’s been a really fun journey so far.”

Sheppard regrets the fact that the Wildcats lost so early in the NCAA Tournament after historic upset against Oakland

During the SEC, Kentucky tied for the second-best record at 13-5 and earned the third-best seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even though many thought they would eventually make the finals, the Wildcats suffered a historic upset in the first round against No. 14 seed Oakland.

Reed still regrets their performance. “The goal at Kentucky is to play for a national championship,” the 19-year-old said. “I thought we had a good shot at it. Our team was special, and losing the way we did was hard. All the relationships we built and how close we were made this decision a lot harder.”

This defeat set up a series of events that led to coach John Calipari leaving his role in Kentucky and head for Arkansas. He was eventually replaced by BYU’s Mark Pope, who even won a national title as a player with the Wildcats alongside Sheppard’s father.

“Our families are very close. We’ve stayed in touch and always watched his teams at BYU,” the player said, as he expects Pope to do a great job. “I know how smart he is as a coach and how offensive-minded his teams are. They run really good stuff, shoot a lot of 3s and are fun to watch. I think Kentucky will still be Kentucky when it’s all over.”

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