Maturity of Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham praised by Coach Cal: UK Wildcats Basketball

With the Kentucky Wildcats boasting a roster of eight talented freshmen, their success in the NCAA Tournament hinges on the early emergence of these young players. The Wildcats haven’t made a deep run since the 2018-19 season.

In a preseason exhibition game against Georgetown, two freshmen showcased their potential. Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard combined for 25 points off the bench, contributing to the Cats’ 29 bench points.

Dillingham, in particular, stood out with 16 points, three rebounds, and five assists in Kentucky’s 92-69 victory over Georgetown. Despite not starting, head coach John Calipari had high praise for the guard.

Calipari drew parallels between Dillingham and previous players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Immanuel Quickley, who thrived in their roles coming off the bench.

Dillingham’s role as a bench player could provide a much-needed spark during games when Kentucky’s offense struggles. After gaining over 20 pounds of muscle during the Canada trip, Dillingham has visibly improved and is expected to make a significant impact on the court this year.

Sheppard, on the other hand, exemplifies the potential of homegrown talent in the Kentucky program. Previous players like Dontaie Allen, Dominique Hawkins, and Derek Willis have made notable contributions to UK basketball.

In the game against Georgetown, Sheppard scored nine points and made valuable contributions in other aspects of the game, including a steal, two assists, and two rebounds in 21 minutes.

Calipari commended Sheppard’s ability to make an impact through the little things that benefit the team as a whole.

“Steady Eddie. Smart. Shoots it pretty good. Playing better defense,” Calipari said in postgame interviews. “What a teammate. Gets the ball to the right guys. He’s making hard plays look easy. I’m excited for him.”

It’s encouraging to see these players embrace their roles on the team, even at this early stage. The Canada trip over the summer likely had a significant impact on their understanding of the team’s potential going into the season.


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