Dick Vitale has sound advice for Kentucky coach John Calipari on star sharpshooter

Kentucky needs to get more shots for Reed Sheppard

Reed Sheppard, Kentucky
Reed Sheppard, Kentucky / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Currently ranked No. 10 in the country, Kentucky is 15-4 on the season and 5-2 in SEC play. John Calipari has once against constructed a deep roster of present and future NBA Draft prospects. None have stood out more than four-star freshman Reed Sheppard.

In 19 games to date, Sheppard is averaging 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on .543/.553/.818 splits in 26.4 minutes per game. Volume has been sparse for Sheppard, however. He only has one start under his belt and Kentucky tends to utilize him more as a complementary piece than a superstar.

That approach has worked well, but Sheppard is arguably the best shooter in college basketball right now. It's simple math — if Sheppard is shooting 55.3 percent from deep, the Wildcats should be feeding him as many of those looks as possible. It is on Sheppard to change, of course. He can be too picky with his shot selection at times. But, truly, the onus falls on Calipari to engineer more shot attempts for his best player.

Make no mistake about it: Sheppard is Kentucky's best player. His 12.7 BPM ranks eighth all-time for freshmen. He continues to come off the bench behind D.J. Wagner and Antonio Reeves. Rob Dillingham is in the mix as well. It's a crowded backcourt, but Sheppard rises above the pack. Few college guards can match his two-way impact on a nightly basis.

Since entering SEC play, however, Sheppard's volume has been trending in the wrong direction. He's averaging 5.6 field goal attempts (1.9 two-point attempts, 3.7 three-point attempts) in conference play. That stands in contrast to his 7.5 field goal attempts over the Wildcats' first 12 games.

College basketball guru Dick Vitale has a spot of helpful advice for Sheppard and Calipari as the Wildcats look to maximize their sharpshooting freshman in a Jan. 24 tweet.

The gist? More shots for Reed Sheppard.

Dick Vitale helpfully suggests more shots for Kentucky's Reed Sheppard

Sheppard is the No. 4 prospect on FanSided's draft board. He won't be in Lexington for very long. While Sheppard is there, however, Calipari has a responsibility to get the most out of the 19-year-old. Vitale's advice is simple, but it rings true. Sheppard should be attempting at least 10 shots per game — if not more. It's time for the Wildcats to test how much volume Sheppard can handle.

The general trend in basketball is that volume correlates negatively to efficiency. Sheppard has been remarkably proficient from 3-point range, but that is partially due to his focus on taking clean, simple looks. Sheppard flahses the occasional pull-up or step-back, but he's not flying around screens and heaving off-balance 3s. He is stepping into open looks and operating as the NCAA's most reliable catch-and-shoot weapon.

Yes, Sheppard's percentages would dip with more volume. That shouldn't deter Kentucky. Even a mild decline from Sheppard leaves him in elite territory. Plus, more shots from Sheppard will change how defenses approach him, which can generate more opportunities for teammates. Sheppard processes the game at a high level and he's an underrated facilitator. If he gets bolder with his shot attempts and defenses start to crowd him, there's reason to believe Sheppard can take advantage.

We will see if Kentucky takes Vitale's advice. Sheppard notably took 12 shots (including nine 3-point attempts) in Kentucky's win over Arkansas on Jan. 27. That is a step in the right direction. Hopefully Sheppard can maintain that approach in the months to come.


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