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Mark Story: Reed Sheppard is set to achieve some final Kentucky basketball milestones

Mark Story, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. — If the emerging consensus among the NBA mock draft talking heads proves accurate, Reed Sheppard will achieve a couple more Kentucky basketball milestones as he traverses his one-and-done path to professional hoops.

Among seven prominent NBA mocks I perused Monday morning, the former North Laurel High School star is projected to go No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets by four of them.

That included NBA.com’s consensus mock draft, as well as mocks from ESPN, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., and NBAdraft.net.

Among the outliers, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor projects Sheppard at No. 5 to Detroit. Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports tabbed Sheppard to go No. 6 overall to Charlotte.

Forecasting for The Athletic, the trio of Kelly Iko, James Edwards and Josh Robbins provided the low point of the Sheppard projections, slotting him at No. 9 to Memphis.

(While that would likely be perceived as a pretty significant draft slide for Sheppard, given the top-three projections for him in other mocks, Memphis would actually be a great place for the ex-UK star to land. A rookie guard could do a lot worse than starting his pro career playing in the same backcourt with superstar Ja Morant and a shrewd veteran like Marcus Smart.)

For Sheppard, any of those landing spots in the 2024 NBA draft — which has been expanded to two days, Wednesday, June 26, and Thursday, June 27 — would allow him to achieve some significant designations in the history of basketball in Kentucky.

1.) Sheppard appears to have a chance to become the highest-drafted, homegrown player in Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball history. All time in UK men’s hoops, there have only been eight such players taken in the first round of common NBA drafts (a ninth ex-Cat, center Tom Payne from Louisville’s Shawnee High School, was a first-round selection in 1971’s “hardship supplemental draft”).

Only one native Kentuckian who played at UK has gone in the top five of an NBA draft. That was Madisonville’s Frank Ramsey, chosen No. 5 overall by the Boston Celtics in 1953.

Otherwise, the only other homegrown players drafted directly from UK in the top 10 of regular NBA drafts were Bryan Station product Melvin Turpin, taken No. 6 overall by Washington in 1984; Apollo High School alum Rex Chapman, No. 8 to Charlotte in 1988; and Harlan’s Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, No. 9 to Washington in 1949.

2.) Sheppard will become only the third native Kentuckian who played at UK to be chosen in an NBA draft so far in the 21st century.

Ex-Kentucky point guard Rajon Rondo, a Louisville product who played most of his prep career at Eastern High School, went No. 21 in the first round to Phoenix (which subsequently traded him to Boston) in the 2006 draft.

Former UK swingman Darius Miller, a Mason County High School alumnus, went No. 46 overall to New Orleans in round two of the 2012 NBA draft.

 

3.) Overall, Sheppard will be the 10th product of Kentucky high school basketball to hear his name called in an NBA draft in the current century.

In addition to Rondo and Miller, Sheppard will join Marshall County’s Dan Langhi (No. 31 overall, second round, 2000 draft); Oldham County’s Donta Smith (No. 34 overall, second round, 2004); and Bryan Station’s Shelvin Mack (No. 34 overall, second round, 2011).

Also Louisville’s D’Angelo Russell (No. 2 overall, first round, 2015), who began his high school career at Central; and three products of Trinity High School in Louisville in Ray Spalding (No. 56 overall, second round, 2018); Jay Scrubb (No. 55 overall, second round, 2020); and David Johnson (No. 47 overall, second round, 2021).

4.) With a pair of Frenchmen, forward Zaccharie Risacher and center Alex Sarr (younger brother of ex-UK center Olivier Sarr), widely expected to go 1-2 in the 2024 NBA draft, one achievement that Sheppard is not expected to reach is to become the native Kentuckian taken the highest in an NBA draft.

That designation is held by another product of southeastern Kentucky, Corbin High School grad Frank Selvy. A college star at Furman, Selvy was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1954 NBA draft by the Baltimore Bullets.

In addition to D’Angelo Russell going No. 2 overall in 2015, former Seneca High School and University of Louisville star Wes Unseld went No. 2 in the 1968 draft’s first round. That feat was matched in 1980 by ex-Male High School and U of L great Darrell Griffith.

5.) Which team choosing early should you should want to pick Sheppard?

For the 2024 draft, the San Antonio Spurs hold picks No. 4 and No. 8 in the first round.

The Spurs already feature 7-foot-4 hoops wunderkind Victor Wembanyama, whose rookie season in 2023-24 yielded the prodigious averages of 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.6 blocks and 1.2 steals a game.

San Antonio is coached by Greg Popovich, the 75-year-old hoops Yoda whose coaching résumé includes five NBA championships.

The Spurs are your answer to the question of which team you should wish drafts Reed Sheppard.


©2024 Lexington Herald-Leader. Visit kentucky.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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