By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman Reed Sheppard currently is the team’s third leading scorer at 13.3 points per game and leads the team in 3-point shooting at 70.6 percent (12 of 17). However, he also led the team in steals (12) and blocked shots (6) after four games.
Maybe some fans have been surprised by the way Sheppard can play defense. However, freshman teammate D.J. Wagner knew what was coming.
“That’s what he does in practice,” Wagner said. “Now you all are seeing it. You all are seeing how much of a threat he is defensively, how great of a player he is defensively.”
Sheppard’s instincts and athleticism made him a good player at North Laurel High School. He’s second all-time in Kentucky in career steals. He’s also shown he can block shots, especially from 3-point range, like he did in high school.
“It must be exhausting to have Reed Sheppard guarding you,” ESPN/SEC Network announcer Tom Hart said. “He never lets up.”
Sheppard said daily practices forced him to get even better defensively.
“That’s the good thing about being at Kentucky. I get to guard Robert (Dillingham) and D.J., Antonio (Reeves), Justin (Edwards) — whoever it is in practice — every single day,” Sheppard said. “Sometimes it’s not fun at all, because they’re all really, really good players.
“You just get better. Every day, you compete. So being able to do that against them in practice is a really good benefit about being at Kentucky. You get to go against the best players in the world every day.”
Wagner credits Sheppard for making him better.
“It just makes you a lot more sharp knowing you gotta make the right pass or knowing that you can’t turn your head, even for a little bit because he’s gonna take it from you. I feel like it makes all of us a lot better,” Wagner said. “He’s aggressive, disrupting, getting all kinds of steals.”
Sheppard also became the first freshman to score at least 25 points, make seven 3-pointers and miss just one shot in Division I since 2018 with his performance against Stonehill. If you add the seven assists he also had he became just the second college player since 2011 to have that stat line.