Home » Why Reed Sheppard Needs to Declare for the NBA Draft Instead of Returning to Kentucky

Why Reed Sheppard Needs to Declare for the NBA Draft Instead of Returning to Kentucky

New UK Wildcats head coach Mark Pope, formerly the HC of BYU, has one goal right now: bring freshman sensation Reed Sheppard back to Lexington for his sophomore year.

“I’m spending a lot of time praying God will call him back to Kentucky.”

What primarily stands in the way of this accomplishment, however, is Reed Sheppard’s draft pedigree. He’s not physically imposing or obscenely athletic (though he is a better athlete than given credit for), but that’s beside the point.

Sheppard is just a flat-out excellent basketball player, and despite standing somewhere between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3, has so many tools in his arsenal to overcome his lacking physical stature.

On the season, Reed Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds,and 4.5 assists on absolutely blistering percentages from the field. The best example of his elite efficiency would be his true shooting numbers, abbreviated TS%, which, for Sheppard, is a wildly impressive 67.9%.

Part of the reason this number is off the charts is that Sheppard is an excellent three-point shooter, hitting 52.1% of his shots from beyond the arc on a legitimate 4.4 3PFGA/game.

Also alluring is the ability for Sheppard to oscillate between point and off guard, both of which he can play with a very adept level of skill, albeit he’s a bit on the small side, especially to play off-ball as a guard.

Still, Sheppard’s offensive prowess as well as off-ball defense makes him an extremely intriguing prospect to be taken as high as top five or seven. And while theoretically, yes, he could return to college and be drafted in the first round in 2025, there is no guarantee of the same result.

The problem is that, as good a pro prospect as Sheppard is, the 2025 NBA Draft is significantly more competitive at the top than this year’s class. If Sheppard did in fact return to Kentucky, played just as well or better, could still find himself several picks lower than he would have been this year, with another year of his NBA career sacrificed to Big Blue Nation.

Sheppard isn’t the typical Kentucky recruit of the Calipari era – he would have played for the Wildcats regardless of who the coach was, as he’s a native of the state.

As much as Sheppard’s dedication to UK endears him to fans more than the average mercenary, 1-and-done player Cal recruits, it’s just blatantly obvious that the right move for Sheppard is to declare as soon as possible.

Having seen hundreds of mocks at this point, Sheppard is in the top 10 in the vast majority of them and top 5 in a good portion of them as well. He’s a special talent that could immediately help a team like the San Antonio Spurs or Charlotte Hornets as an off-ball guard that can switch responsibilities depending on the rotation on the floor.

It’s just not worth risking injury or falling several spots in the 2025 Draft to give your school one more year. As offput as Kentuckians may be by this, Sheppard knows what he needs to do, and will get his named called pretty early in the 2024 NBA Draft.

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