Welp, here we go. What has felt inevitable since the start of the season is now a reality: Reed Sheppard is a projected first-round pick.
No, not in four years or even two, now. One-and-done.
It’s easy to dream big with Laurel County’s finest as a multi-year legacy superstar, someone set on sticking around four years to rewrite the history books in Lexington. We would all love that, obviously. But let me be the first to tell you: it ain’t happening.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony already named Sheppard his most surprising freshman in college basketball this week. Now, he’s putting his money where his mouth is in his belief in the London native, including him in his latest mock draft.
25. Indiana Pacers (via Oklahoma City)
Reed Sheppard | Kentucky | PG/SG | 19.4
The McDonald’s All-American has opened his freshman campaign averaging 12.3 points on 65.2% shooting and 63.3% from three to go with 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per contest. He also leads the nation in box plus/minus with a +17.6 — college basketball’s highest since at least 2010.
What makes Sheppard special and a potential first-round one-and-done?
“Sheppard uses and rejects ball screens effectively to get into the paint off crossovers and hesitation moves, reading the floor with poise and patience and making the game easy for teammates by whipping the ball all over the court with outlet passes, finding cutters and rollers over the top, and with skip passes for open 3s,” Givony wrote. “He also is an outstanding shooter with deep range with his feet set and pulling up off the dribble, showing no hesitation getting into his jumper with a quick release and impressive confidence.
“Defensively, he generates turnovers instinctually with timely digs, traps and post-doubles, shooting the gap for steals, intercepting entry passes, flying around off the ball, and wreaking havoc with smart rotations to protect the rim. He’s got quick hands, and an even quicker mind, helping him compensate for his lack of physical tools, which show up at times with the way bigger players can shoot over the top of his limited length or overpower him one-on-one.”
Sheppard isn’t the only Wildcat listed in ESPN’s latest mock draft, obviously. In fact, there are five Kentucky players included, four coming in the first round alone.
10. Justin Edwards – San Antonio Spurs
15. DJ Wagner – Atlanta Hawks
20. Robert Dillingham – Cleveland Cavaliers
25. Reed Sheppard – Indiana Pacers
39. Aaron Bradshaw – Oklahoma City Thunder
None of the other names should shock you — they’ve been up and down draft boards for years. But this is the first time Reed Sheppard has been included in a major one, certainly this high.
And it should not surprise you. Because he’s clearly an NBA player.