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NBA Draft Combine: Mark Pope watches Jaxson Robinson, Antonio Reeves shines

Zack Geogheganby:Zack Geoghegan05/14/24

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Mark Pope arrived in Chicago on Sunday to watch transfer targets Chaz Lanier (North Florida) and Wooga Poplar (Miami). A couple of days later, the new Kentucky men’s basketball head coach is back in the Windy City to check on one of his former (and possibly future) players.

That would be BYU’s Jaxson Robinson, who received an invite to this week’s NBA Draft Combine and suited up for Team Herscu during the first scrimmage of the week on Tuesday afternoon. He wasn’t the only notable name participating (more on that below), but he was certainly the most important for Pope and Kentucky heading into the 2024-25 season.

If Robinson excels this week at the Combine and improves his stock, there’s a chance he will keep his name in the draft pool in hopes of getting selected. However, if the reigning Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year ultimately elects to return to college, the belief is that Pope — his former head coach at BYU — will immediately become the frontrunner to land his talents.

In his first of two scrimmages (the second coming on Wednesday), Robinson finished with 10 points, two rebounds, one assist, one block, and one turnover in 21 minutes played during a 99-84 win over Team Love. The 6-foot-5 wing shot 3-9 from the floor, 2-5 from distance, and 2-2 from the line.

Antonio Reeves steals the show

Antonio Reeves — viewed as a possible second-round pick going into the Combine — might have helped his draft stock more than anyone else during the first day of scrimmages. Suiting up alongside Bronny James, Reeves didn’t initially start the game, but he still played more minutes than anyone and was tied for the game-high in points.

In 28 minutes of action, Reeves finished with 17 points, four assists, one steal, one block, and one turnover. The 6-foot-5 guard shot 5-14 from the field and 1-7 from deep, but connected on all six of his free throw attempts. He was even running point guard at times for Team St. Andrews, which beat Team Forehan-Kelly by a score of 89-81.

Reeves was his usual self, getting to his spots on offense and running out in transition. Four assists as the defacto lead guard surely impressed some of the scouts. He even showed flashes on the defensive end, as well. Another solid outing like this on Wednesday and we could start to hear Reeves’ name even more going into next month’s draft.

Reed Sheppard = Steve Nash?

Reed Sheppard might not be participating in any of the scrimmages this week, but he’s still in Chicago to meet with scouts and front office folks. He also had time to sneak in a quick interview with the ESPN2 broadcast during the first scrimmage. The projected Top 10 pick touched on the usual topics since the season ended: how his time at Kentucky went, the decision to go pro, his relationship with Mark Pope — the usual humble Sheppard Talk.

But he was also asked who he would compare his game to — and you might not expect his answer.

“That’s a good question. I get a lot of Steve Nash, which I’m okay with because he was a really good player,” Sheppard said, adding that Devin Booker is his favorite former Wildcat. “I don’t know. I like watching all the Kentucky guys. Been trying to take some parts of their games just because, being from Kentucky, I’ve always watched Kentucky guys played so it’s really cool seeing all the Kentucky guys in the NBA.”

As a Kentucky guy and fan of the NBA myself, I would have to agree with Sheppard here.

Justin Edwards impresses

Although it came in an 89-81 loss to Reeves’ squad, Justin Edwards had a solid game in his own right. The 6-foot-7 freshman wing finished with 14 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and two turnovers in 24 minutes. He shot 6-11 overall and went 2-5 from deep.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks praised Edwards afterward, saying he had one of the best two-minute stretches of the entire game. Marks added that Edwards also deserves credit for participating in the scrimmages (which isn’t required) instead of holding private workouts as a possible first-round pick. Edwards showed off his outside shot, was solid defensively, and moved well off the ball.

It’s only one scrimmage, but Edwards certainly didn’t hurt his stock with today’s performance. The biggest challenge will be replicating that again on Wednesday.

Rob Dillingham is dealing with an injury

According to a report this morning by ESPN, Kentucky freshman and projected lottery pick Rob Dillingham is dealing with a sprained ankle. He injured it in a workout roughly two weeks ago, per the report, and is expected to miss another “two to four weeks”, which should still see him return before the actual 2024 NBA Draft on June 26.

Dillingham did not participate in the measurement and drills portion of the Combine on Monday and was not available for the 5-on-5 scrimmages on Tuesday. But neither was fellow future lottery pick Reed Sheppard. At this point, NBA scouts know what they’re getting out of Dillingham and Sheppard, but they’ll likely still want to see Dillingham work on that ankle at some point before spending a draft pick on him.

Ugonna Onyenso holding private workout

Kentucky sophomore transfer Ugonna Onyenso most likely won’t be making a return to the Wildcats. Instead, he appears locked in on making it work in the NBA instead of going back to college.

According to Forbes’ Adam Zagoria, Onyenso is hosting a private Pro Day workout on Thursday with 18 NBA scouts expected to attend. The 6-foot-11 big man has yet to hire an agent, so a return to college is still on the table (the likes of Oklahoma, North Carolina, Louisville, Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgetown, and Rutgers will all be in the mix, per Zagoria, if he does), but he’s taking advantage of having so many NBA personnel in Chicago this week by getting them to watch him in person.

Onyenso was invited to the G League Elite Camp, which took place over the weekend in Chicago, but he was not one of the few players invited to participate in this week’s Combine.

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2024-05-27