The Kentucky Wildcats started the season 1-0 on Monday night as they cruised past the New Mexico State Aggies 86-46.
With plenty of eyes on the freshman class in their debuts, it was Reed Sheppard who stood out among the rest for his excellent performance on both ends of the floor. The legacy combo guard finished the night with 12 points on 4/6 shooting while also adding five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Reed Sheppard is the first @KentuckyMBB player to have at least 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in a season opener since Terrence Jones vs. East Tennessee State on November 12th, 2010 (25 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks)— Corey Price (@coreyp08) November 7, 2023
It was really Sheppard’s defense that stood out, as he was an absolute menace for the Aggies. Whether it was affecting shots, deflecting passes, or getting steals that turned into fast-break points, Sheppard made it clear he could make a major impact on both sides of the floor.
“Reed may have the best hands of anybody I’ve coached,” said John Calipari after the game. “I mean, his feel to get — blocking balls. And he was really good today. Really good.”
Sheppard brought the Rupp Arena crowd to their feet several times throughout the night as the London (KY) native finally got to rock the blue and white.
Not only did he receive spectacular reviews from fans and Calipari, but he also got a rave review from teammate Robert Dillingham, who said Sheppard “gets his hands on every ball” on defense.
“Reed’s a great defender. Reed’s just a basketball player,” said Dillingham after Monday’s win. “Reed is in the right position at every time. Reed can dunk the ball. He can shoot the ball. He can shoot the mid-range (shot). He’s a three-level scorer. He literally can do everything, and he’s a team player. He’s never thinking about himself.”
And don’t undersell just how strong of a leader and teammate Sheppard already is for this young group.
“I love playing with Reed. He helps me even when sometimes I get frustrated about something. He always keeps me level-headed and makes me realize there’s a bigger picture, and we’re playing for each other,” said Dillingham.
Even Dick Vitale couldn’t help but heap praise on Sheppard.
The Cats won easily as expected last night vs New Mexico State. @KentuckyMBB did it with a dominant transition game as the passed the rock effectively . To me Diaper Dandy REED SHEPHERD is going to be a “STAR” as he can score in multiple ways & also defend . @UKCoachCalipari has…— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) November 7, 2023
This Kentucky team is going to be fun to watch. Reed Sheppard is going to be a huge part of that.