Can Mark Pope keep Reed Sheppard at Kentucky? We'll see, but the conversations have already started

Mark Pope and Reed Sheppard's dad, Jeff, have a great relationship that could end up helping convince the star guard to return to Kentucky.
Mar 15, 2024; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Reed Sheppard (15) drives down the lane
Mar 15, 2024; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Reed Sheppard (15) drives down the lane / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

While the transfer portal is the biggest recruiter there is in college basketball, sometimes keeping your current players is a better situation. For Kentucky, there is now some clarity with new head coach Mark Pope officially on board.

One of those current players who will have an important decision upcoming is freshman guard Reed Sheppard. The talented freshman came to Kentucky with NBA aspirations, but nobody expected him to jump up NBA boards and settle as a lottery pick. So, because of that -- it's not a given he'll be back in Lexington.

But, can Mark Pope begin his Kentucky tenure with a huge win in that category? His relationship with Jeff Sheppard, Reed's dad, can help.

Pope and Sheppard were teammates at Kentucky for two years, including on the 1996 National Championship team. So, there is more than just a head coach - player relationship with Pope and Reed Sheppard.

According to Lyndsey Gough of KYTV, those conversations of potentially returning to Kentucky have already begun.

Sheppard is currently projected the No. 2 overall pick in the most recent ESPN Mock Draft -- but he's been as low as late-lottery in others.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season. He started just five games and played 28.9 minutes a game. He led the SEC in steal percentage and was ninth in made 3s. He shot 52.1 percent on 2.3 made 3s per game

Not only is this potential decision a major one for Sheppard, it's also a significant one for Kentucky. If the Wildcats are able to convince the star guard to return, it gives Mark Pope a major piece to his puzzle when putting together his roster.

Time will tell whether or not he returns, but the relationship between Pope and the entire Sheppard family could hold more weight than some may think.

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