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Kentucky freshman guard Reed Sheppard will enter the 2024 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility, he told ESPN on Thursday.

“I’m going all-in,” Sheppard said. “The opportunity I have is great. I’ve gotten really good feedback showing where I can be in the draft. I had an unbelievable year at Kentucky. It was such a fun year. It’s not easy leaving the fans and the school I dreamed of playing at. I need to do what’s best for me, and that’s heading to the NBA.”

Sheppard, the No. 7 prospect in ESPN’s NBA draft projections, was named the SEC freshman of the year and second-team all-conference after averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game and shooting 52.1% from 3. No first-round pick from college has shot over 50% from 3 on similar volume since Glen Rice at Michigan in 1988-89.

“My teammates and coaches put confidence in me, telling me you need to shoot,” Sheppard said. “I was fortunate to be able to get in the gym and work with [Kentucky assistant] coach John Welch every day. He’s one of the best trainers you’ll find.”

Sheppard was a top-25 recruit and a McDonald’s All American coming out of high school, but few expected him to emerge as a one-and-done lottery pick, especially after coming off the bench for most of the season.

Nevertheless, he captivated NBA scouts with his shooting prowess, playmaking acumen, defensive instincts, feel for the game, productivity and never-ending confidence, with a slew of exceptional performances in SEC play.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” Sheppard said. “I wasn’t going in with the expectations of what ultimately happened. I knew I was going to do whatever I could to help Kentucky win. If I needed to get the team water, I would get the team water. I was excited to be at my dream school. It’s unbelievable the way it ended up. It’s been a really fun journey so far.”

Kentucky tied for the second-best record in the SEC at 13-5 and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats were upset in the first round by No. 14 seed Oakland, which set off a chain of events leading to coach John Calipari departing for Arkansas.

“The goal at Kentucky is to play for a national championship,” Sheppard said. “I thought we had a good shot at it. Our team was special, and losing the way we did was hard. All the relationships we built and how close we were made this decision a lot harder.”

Calipari was replaced by BYU‘s Mark Pope, who won a national championship as a player at Kentucky alongside Sheppard’s father, Jeff. Reed Sheppard said he thought Pope was “going to do a great job.”

“Our families are very close. We’ve stayed in touch and always watched his teams at BYU,” Sheppard said. “I know how smart he is as a coach and how offensive-minded his teams are. They run really good stuff, shoot a lot of 3s and are fun to watch. I think Kentucky will still be Kentucky when it’s all over.”

The NBA draft combine will be held May 13-19 in Chicago, and the NBA draft will be held in New York City on June 26-27.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.



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