NBA Draft: Houston Rockets add elite shooter by taking Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard at No. 3 overall


The Houston Rockets selected Reed Sheppard with the third overall pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, adding an elite long-range shooter to their young team.

The guard, who spent one season at Kentucky, was the first American taken in this year’s draft after French players Zacharie Risacher and Alex Sarr were selected by Atlanta and Washington with the top two picks.

Sheppard said he’d dreamed of this moment since he was a little kid. His big night was made even more special by having his parents Jeff and Stacey Sheppard, who also both played at Kentucky, there with him. He turned 20 on Monday.

“It’s my mom’s birthday today,” he said. “So that’s an awesome thing to celebrate as well.”

Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals while appearing in 33 games for the Wildcats. He shot 52.1% from 3-point range and made 83.1% of his free throws. He was the only player in the nation last season to have at least 145 assists, 80 steals, and make at least 75 3-pointers.

Sheppard became the second player in school history to have at least 80 steals in a season despite starting just five games. It’s the 17th consecutive year that Kentucky has had at least one player selected in the NBA draft.

At 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds, Sheppard is among the smallest players in this year’s draft but is also thought by many draft analysts to be the best shooter.

Sheppard is the latest high draft pick to join the rebuilding Rockets in recent years. They took Amen Thompson fourth last year after adding Jabari Smith Jr. with the third pick in 2022 and Jalen Green second in 2021.

The Rockets missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season this year but made a significant jump in their first year under coach Ime Udoka after adding veterans Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet. Houston went 41-41 after winning just 17, 20, and 22 games in the previous three seasons.

“I’m super excited,” Sheppard said. “They have a really good thing going in Houston. Coach is really good. They have Jalen. They have a bunch of really young athletic guys and we’ll be able to play fast and it’s going to be fun.”

He is looking forward to playing with VanVleet, a fellow undersized guard who will be entering his ninth season in the NBA.

“The biggest thing is just going in and learning,” he said. “They have guys like Fred VanVleet that I’ll be able to learn from. Just going in with an open mind, ready to learn, ready to do whatever it takes to win and just compete.”

First, Victor Wembanyama, now Zacharie Risacher.

These days, American college players have to wait their turn in the NBA draft. It’s someone else’s time at the top.

Vive la France!

The Atlanta Hawks took Risacher with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night and France landed three players in the top six in a historic night for the country.

“That’s amazing,” Risacher said. “We try to represent our country and so, glad to be a part of it. You know more players are coming in.”

Risacher doesn’t come with the enormous height or hype of Wembanyama, the towering center who went to San Antonio last year and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award.

But the Hawks saw him as the best choice in what has been viewed as a draft absent of elite talent.

The 19-year-old forward was the winner of the Best Young Player award in the French League last season and beat out fellow Frenchman Alex Sarr in the race to be the top pick.

When he did, it made NBA draft history. This is the first time that the draft has gone consecutive years without the No. 1 pick being someone who played at an American college.

“Shows the amount of talent we have in France,” Sarr said. “Really excited for Zach. I think our national team is going to be really good.”

Sarr went second to the Washington Wizards after playing last year with Perth in Australia’s National Basketball League.

The Hawks had only a 3% chance of winning the lottery to earn the No. 1 pick, and there was no obvious choice waiting once they did. Most mock drafts were split between Risacher and Sarr, and Atlanta also worked out UConn center Donovan Clingan.

Houston made Kentucky freshman Reed Sheppard the No. 3 pick. A one-and-done college player had topped the draft for 13 straight years from 2010-22 before Wembanyama ended that streak.

Now the draft is under French rule.

Stephon Castle of the two-time reigning national champion Huskies made it two straight college freshmen when San Antonio took him at No. 4, the Spurs’ first of two picks in the top 10. They also held the No. 8 selection — though they dealt the rights to that pick, Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, to Minnesota.

But the Spurs are holding onto Castle, who had a phone call with Wembanyama and can now throw passes to him to ease his transition from Dan Hurley in his old home to Gregg Popovich in his new one.

“I was just playing for the best coach in college basketball and now flipping to the NBA and going to play for a legendary coach like Coach Pop, it’s a blessing,” Castle said.

The Detroit Pistons took Ron Holland of the G League Ignite with the fifth pick before the Hornets took Tidjane Salaun, who played last year for Cholet Basket in France.

“I think the basketball in France is improved that’s why we are here in this draft,” Saluan said.

Clingan, who won titles in both seasons in Storrs, finally went to Portland at No. 7.

The draft moved to a two-night format this year, with the first round being held as usual at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the second round to be held Thursday at ESPN’s Seaport District studios.

The green room was filled with several unfamiliar faces who will head to the NBA from other leagues or other countries. A player who would have been one of the most recognizable was not in the arena: Zach Edey, the two-time AP Player of the Year from Purdue, was taken at No. 9 by Memphis.

Another All-American, Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht, went lower than predicted, after dropping from an expected lottery pick to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 17.

The Knicks had back-to-back picks as the round dragged toward the finish, but their fans had much more to cheer with the moves they made before the draft. New York made a deal to acquire Mikal Bridges from Brooklyn on Tuesday, then got OG Anunoby to agree to stay with the team on a five-year contract worth more than $210 million on Wednesday.

Bronny James was not drafted in the first round, though LeBron James’ son had one of his USC teammates taken just before the night ended, with Isaiah Collier going to Utah with the No. 29 selection.

The first round then wrapped up with the NBA champion Boston Celtics taking Baylor Scheierman from Creighton.

Alex Morgan, one of the last links to the great U.S. women's soccer team dynasty, was left out of the Paris U.S. Olympic squad on Wednesday, likely signaling the end of her international career.
It will be the first time since the 2008 Olympics that forward Morgan will not suit up for the U.S. in a major competition.
Recovering from an ankle injury, the 34-year-old had been fighting for fitness but the twice World Cup winner has had limited playing time with her NWSL club the San Diego Wave, and has no goals and just one assist from eight games.
"Today, I'm disappointed about not having the opportunity to represent my country on the Olympic stage," posted Morgan on social media. "This will always be a tournament that is close to my heart and I take immense pride every time I put on the crest.
"In less than a month I look forward to supporting this team and cheering them on alongside the rest of our country."
With only 18 roster spots for the Olympics, coach Emma Hayes was forced to make some hard choices.
"It was a tough decision, especially considering Alex's history and record with this team, but I felt I wanted to go in another direction and selected other players," Hayes told reporters on a call.
Hayes, the highly successful Chelsea manager who has been charged with returning the four-time gold medallists to glory, said she needed an adaptable squad given the tight turnaround between games.
"I think it's a balanced roster," she said.

"I've considered all the factors that we're going to need throughout the Olympics and it's one that I'm really happy with."
Even without Morgan, the U.S. will not lack experience with eight players back from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where they won bronze.
Familiar names returning to the roster include veteran goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, midfielder Lindsey Horan, and forward Crystal Dunn.
The U.S. heads to Paris eager to move past their worst-ever World Cup campaign last year when they exited in the round of 16.
The U.S. team will come together on July 8 to face Mexico in a friendly in New Jersey and will take on Costa Rica on July 16 in Washington in their final Olympic tune-up.
The U.S. open Group B play at the Games on July 25 against Zambia at Stade de Nice in Nice.

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