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Reed Sheppard says it was a 'dream come true' to play at Kentucky, grateful for 'wherever I go' in draft

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim06/24/24

There is a very real chance Reed Sheppard is the first college player taken off the board when the 2024 NBA Draft begins Wednesday night in Brooklyn. The latest projections have him going No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets, behind only Zaccharie Risacher of France (No. 1 to Atlanta) and Alex Sarr of Australia (No. 2 to Washington).

Not too shabby for a kid out of London, KY — especially one with just five career starts as a Wildcat.

What is his preference? Sheppard doesn’t care. Whether he goes No. 1 or No. 58, the former Wildcat is just happy to celebrate his NBA dreams becoming a reality with his family in New York.

“It’s really cool. I’m just very thankful to be in the position that I’m in,” he told Paul Finebaum on Monday. “I’m going to be excited wherever I end up, wherever I go. It’s going to be an unbelievable experience, something that me and my family will be able to celebrate together. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m really glad to be here in New York and be at the draft this year. …

“It’s been unbelievable. It’s a dream of every little kid’s to be in the position that I am in and being at the NBA Draft. It’s going to be a lot of fun, being able to be here with my family is something that we’ll be able to enjoy together. I’m super excited for this opportunity.”

It’s actually the Laurel County native’s birthday today, telling Finebaum he’ll be eating at a fancy steakhouse in New York City this evening — his big day before the big day. The celebrations begin this week after a long journey up to this point, one that started in Lexington where he became one of the hottest names in college basketball as an unlikely one-and-done at Kentucky.

Though the season did not end the way any of us hoped, it was a part of his path he’ll always be grateful for, his first basketball dream coming true.

“It was it was a fun time. I couldn’t ask for a better year and a better group of teammates and group of coaches,” Sheppard said. “It was an unbelievable year and I’m super thankful that I was able to be a part of that. … I always remember going to games and going to the SEC Tournament with Mom and Dad, them taking me to games and being around all the players and coaches, going to practices and watching all the games. Growing up, I was definitely all around it. It was a dream come true being able to play there.”

What’s he been up to since the season ended? Non-stop work, his time dedicated to training, working out for teams and interviews. His pro dreams may be coming true on Wednesday, but now is when the real journey and challenge begins.

“I’ve just been out in California training and just trying to get better and get stronger, just kind of working on my overall game and not picking just one thing to work on,” he said. “Just keep getting in the gym every day and keep doing the stuff that works, then building new things to your game to just get better overall as a better basketball player.”

His vision? Become a 12-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA member, widely considered one of the best guards the game has ever seen.

Well, that’s the guy he has long modeled his game after, at least. Come anywhere close to that and it’s safe to consider his career an overwhelming success.

“Chris Paul. Chris Paul has been my favorite player for a long time,” Sheppard told Finebaum. “And then being from Kentucky and going to all the Kentucky games, it’s been really cool being able to get to know some of the guys and watch them play at Kentucky and then follow them to the NBA, seeing them play.

“That’s been really cool for me. I like to follow all of the Kentucky players and keep up with them, so that’s been pretty cool for me.”

Check out the complete interview below:

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