Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard both earn National Freshman of the Year awards

On3 imageby:Zack Geoghegan04/02/24

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When it comes to naming the best men’s college basketball freshman in the country from the 2023-24 season, you can’t go wrong with either of Kentucky’s impressive off-the-bench guards.

After Reed Sheppard was recognized by the USBWA as the National Freshman of the Year a couple of weeks ago (more on him in a moment), his teammate, Rob Dillingham, has now received the same honor from a different outlet.

On Tuesday afternoon, Andy Katz of NCAA.com announced that he has picked Dillingham as his choice for National Freshman of the Year.

Dillingham only saw 23.3 minutes per game this past season for Kentucky (compared to 28.9 for Sheppard), but his numbers still stuck out. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged the second-most points on the team at 15.2 per outing in addition to 2.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and one steal. He shot 47.5 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from deep, and 79.6 percent from the line in 32 games played.

A projected NBA Draft lottery pick, Dillingham has yet to officially announce if he intends to turn pro or return for a sophomore season at Kentucky. Of the Wildcats’ 2023-24 roster, he is considered the most likely to leave Lexington as a one-and-done prospect.

But not to be outdone, less than an hour after Dillingham’s honor was announced, Sheppard picked up another award of his own. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) named Sheppard its National Freshman of the Year, the first Kentucky player to receive this outlet’s honor, which began in 2016-17.

Sheppard has picked up quite a few postseason awards over the last few weeks. ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Jeff Borzello also tabbed him as their National Freshman of the Year. Additionally, Sheppard made the All-SEC Second Team and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year.

During his freshman campaign, Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. The 6-foot-3 guard shot the ball at an elite clip: 53.6 percent overall, 52.1 percent from long range, and 83.1 percent from the line. He started five of the 33 games he appeared in, finishing his season with 82 steals, second-most in program history.

Like Dillingham, Sheppard is also considered a future NBA Draft lottery selection. However, his decision is not as cut and dry as Dillingham’s. That being said, it would be a shock to see Sheppard turn down the possibility of being a top-10 pick in favor of coming back for another season at Kentucky.

Regardless, it still feels crazy to say that Kentucky had TWO National Freshman of the Year winners — and they both came off the bench.

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2024-04-25