Reed Sheppard believes Mark Pope will 'do great things' at Kentucky

Zack Geogheganby:Zack Geoghegan05/15/24


Reed Sheppard has been a busy guy since Kentucky’s 2023-24 season came to an end. It’s only going to get busier, too.

This week, Sheppard is in Chicago for the 2024 NBA Draft Combine. While not participating in scrimmages, the projected Top 10 pick in next month’s draft still went through drills and measurements (did you hear about his 42-inch vertical??) early in the week. He also made time to sit down with the ESPN2 crew on Tuesday during the first of two scrimmages that afternoon.

As he does, Sheppard spent plenty of time talking about those around him and how they’ve helped him reach this point. But did you also know he gets compared to Steve Nash the most? Or that Devin Booker is his favorite former Wildcat to watch in the NBA? By the fall, he could be going head-to-head against Booker — life is about to drastically change for the native of London, KY.

Following Sunday’s Draft Lottery, ESPN has Sheppard mocked to the Houston Rockets with the third overall pick. The consensus among the vast majority of mocks is that he’s a near-lock to go within the first 10 selections. That impressive vertical leap should only help his case, too. The 2024 NBA Draft begins on June 26.

“I think they messed it up. I think they lowered it a little bit for me,” Sheppard joked about his 42-inch leap. “No, it was fun. This whole process is unbelievable. Being able to be here, testing, doing all the drills, doing everything, and with all the great guys that are here, the great players, and then it’s full of great coaches and organizations as well. Just being here is really special. It’s really, really cool having this opportunity and I’m super thankful.”

While in Chicago, Sheppard has been able to link up with the people he grew the closest to over the last year. A handful of his former Kentucky teammates are also in the Windy City for the Combine. Sheppard said this week was the first time in over a month that he’s been able to see and hang out with Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves, and Justin Edwards.

Speaking of that group, Sheppard was asked about his lone season at Kentucky under former head coach John Calipari. He had high praise for the man who helped develop him into a future lottery pick, but at the same time, he’s excited to see what Mark Pope can build in Lexington.

“My time with Kentucky was unbelievable,” Sheppard said. “Coach Cal, to me, is the best coach in the world and he was unbelievable to me. And all the players, we really enjoyed playing for him and I’m super happy for him. It was an unbelievable run that he had.

“And then Coach Pope, we know him and his family very well. Of course, dad and him were roommates at Kentucky. So I actually was just speaking to him over there before I came out here but I think he’s gonna do great things. He’s a really good coach. He’s got some really good players coming in. I’m super excited to watch him play and continue to cheer for Kentucky.”

One final note on Sheppard: ESPN’s Jonathan Givony compared his physical traits to that of future Hall of Fame guard Steph Curry. When Curry was 21 years old, his height, weight, and wingspan all matched up with Sheppard at 20.

While it’s unfair to compare the two players in terms of their on-court skills, Sheppard does take some pages from Curry’s book on basketball. Curry, known as the best shooter in the history of the game, never goes through shooting drills without getting his heart rate up to game speed. Sheppard does the same.

“Working out and training at game speed, you just get a feel for how you’re going to be shooting in the games,” he said. “I don’t like shooting in workouts when it’s not game-speed just because that’s not how it’s gonna be in a game.”

Not a bad guy to learn from, huh?

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