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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Reed Sheppard recognized as NABC National Freshman of the Year

Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard dribbles the ball during the Kentucky vs. Florida mens’s basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky lost 94-91. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

Kentucky men’s basketball’s Reed Sheppard was named the 2023-24 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) National Freshman of the Year on Tuesday.

Sheppard is the first player from the University of Kentucky to be honored with the award, which began being awarded in 2017.

Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard (15) passes the ball during the No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 7 Texas A&M men’s basketball match in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 15, 2024, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky lost 97-87. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

To further spotlight Sheppard’s first season as a Wildcat, the Kentucky native was also recognized as the nation’s best freshman by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), The Field of 68 and ESPN’s Jeff Borzello and Dick Vitale.

The awards didn’t stop there for Sheppard, who accumulated a handful of additional awards as well including four SEC Freshman of the Week titles and College Hoops Today’s National Sixth Man of the Year honor.

After the conclusion of the team’s season, Sheppard finished averaging 12.5 points per game while scoring in double digits in 21 of those games.

He ranks eighth in assists put up in a single season by a freshman in UK program history, totaling 148 assists during the year.

The 6-foot, 3-inch guard also left his mark in Lexington with 82 steals — the second-most put up by a Kentucky player just under Rajon Rondo (87).

To top it off, Sheppard made history as the only player in the country to reach over 80 steals, at least 145 assists and make at least 70 3-pointers through March 24.

His career-high game came in Starkville, Mississippi, on Feb. 27, when Sheppard led the Wildcats to a victory over Mississippi State with 32 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals.

While he burst onto the scene in Lexington, Kentucky basketball had always been a part of his life as Sheppard is the son of two UK basketball legends, Jeff and Stacey Sheppard — formerly Stacey Reed — and followed in their footsteps to Lexington.

Jeff Sheppard played at UK under Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith from 1993-1998 while Stacey played for the women’s team in the ‘90s and accumulated over 1,400 career points during her time as a Wildcat.

With his play drawing attention, Reed Sheppard is currently projected as a first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, though he has not yet announced his decision to enter it or stay in Lexington for another year. The deadline to declare for the draft is April 27.

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Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor
Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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