Busting Brackets

Reed Sheppard Giving up Kentucky Basketball for NBA Dreams

The John Calipari Era at Kentucky is officially over. While the obvious changes are occurring daily with Calipari's sudden departure to take over the Arkansas Razorbacks, the end of a huge chapter in Wildcat Basketball is closing as players are deciding to head for the greener pastures of the NBA. The growing trend in NCAA sports sees the ripple effect that coaching changes have on collegiate sports and those massive changes are prevalent in the world of both men's and women's basketball. Players, along with coaches, seem to have less loyalty to a particular program and more inclination to search for calmer or more lucrative waters with other schools or seek their playing fortunes within the professional basketball ranks.
Oakland v Kentucky
Oakland v Kentucky / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The shock waves created by John Calipari suddenly parting ways with Kentucky basketball and the Big Blue Nation are just now starting to be felt in Lexington. Whether there's a sound reason for Coach Cal to leap from the frying pan in Kentucky straight into the fire in Fayetteville, Arkansas remains to be seen and only time will tell if the boss in Arkansas men's hoops can turn that program's fortunes around. The more immediate effects are moving up and down the Kentucky bench as players make their individual decisions to stick it out with the University of Kentucky and new head coach Mark Pope or jump into the NCAA transfer portal and find a new home-quickly.

In the case of freshman sensation Reed Sheppard, his days wearing Kentucky blue are now officially over. Selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association as the men's Freshman of the Year and by SEC coaches as the conference to a similar award, Sheppard has made no qualms about his decision to enter the 2024 NBA draft and pursue his dreams of playing professionally.

The 6'3" point was one of the top performers for the Wildcats during the 2023-24 season and averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals per page and also averaged almost 29 minutes of playing time. The London, KY native was a natural in-state recruiting target last season for John Calipari and immediately made an impact on the court for the Big Blue Nation.

While Calipari's decision to leave Kentucky for Arkansas no doubt played a role in Sheppard's decision to enter the NBA draft this year, the fact remains that he's one of the top point guards in multiple mock drafts and his stock has risen considerably over the course of the season. Yes, top-notch college players can bring in seven-figure incomes through NIL endorsements while still retaining their NCAA eligibility but Reed Sheppard felt that the timing was perfect to throw his name into the NBA hat and he will not retain any chance of returning to college basketball next season.

With a possible $5.5 million dollar rookie contract that could extend out much further over multiple seasons, Sheppard does stand to realize a dream of playing in the NBA earlier than expected. Again, this will be the legacy of John Calipari at Kentucky as he perfected the "one and done" loophole in the NCAA regulations to allow young players to pursue their sports dreams sooner than usual.

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For Sheppard, his NBA dreams will begin on May 12th when the NBA draft lottery occurs. Fourteen NBA teams who did not make the current playoffs will have an opportunity to participate in the draft lottery and vie for the coveted early draft picks which undoubtedly will include Reed Sheppard's name on the top of NBA general manager draft prospects. Sheppard could easily land as one of the top point guards in this year's draft crop and will have a chance to prove the naysayers wrong by making it onto an NBA roster com next fall.