John Calipari talks Reed Sheppard, Mitch McConnell and more on UK basketball radio show

Following Tuesday night’s comeback SEC road win at Mississippi State — highlighted by Reed Sheppard’s buzzer-beating shot to win the contest — Kentucky head coach John Calipari didn’t mince words.

He wanted his team to celebrate the road win over an MSU team that had been on a five-game winning streak.

“This was a big-time win. We’re going to celebrate,” Calipari told reporters postgame.

Calipari brought that sense of confidence and satisfaction to his weekly radio show Wednesday night, where he recapped Sheppard’s outstanding individual performance, among other items.

Now 20-8 overall this season and 10-5 in SEC games, Kentucky will play its next two contests at home against two of the league’s worst teams, Arkansas and Vanderbilt (two teams the Cats have already beaten this season), before closing the regular season with a rivalry matchup at Tennessee.

Reed Sheppard balls out in Kentucky basketball win

For the first few minutes of Calipari’s radio show, all he could talk about was Sheppard.

And who could blame him?

UK’s homegrown freshman guard was phenomenal in the 91-89 win over Mississippi State: Sheppard recorded 32 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the field (including 4-for-7 from 3-point range), along with seven assists, five rebounds, two blocks, two steals and only two turnovers.

Points aside, that’s the kind of stat line that Kentucky has come to expect from the former North Laurel High School star and McDonald’s All-American. Add in the points, and you have one of the great individual performances in UK basketball history.

“Until I got on the plane, I didn’t know he had 32,” Calipari said of Sheppard’s high-scoring night.

“... He has the ability to stay calm and not worry about losing. You only worry about winning. How do we win? You can’t play not to lose.”

Sheppard now has per-game averages of 12.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists. His 76 steals are tied for third on the UK single-season list.

In particular, Sheppard’s 3-point shooting skill has been on display during the 2023-24 season.

Sheppard is shooting 51.7% from deep, which is second in the nation behind only Texas’ Dylan Disu. But, Sheppard’s 3-point shooting volume (116 attempts) is more than any of the top six 3-point shooters (by percentage) in the nation.

Antonio Reeves All-America campaign continues to gain steam

Sheppard’s big scoring night took all the headlines from UK’s win at Mississippi State, but fifth-year guard Antonio Reeves continued to fill his role as the Wildcats’ most consistent scoring presence.

Despite shooting only 2-for-7 from 3-point range, Reeves was second on UK with 21 points against the Bulldogs. He went 6-for-8 on 2-point shots.

It was just the latest scoring performance by Reeves in a season that’s been full of them: This was the 17th time this season that Reeves has scored at least 20 points in a game, and the fourth straight contest in which he’s done so.

This makes Reeves the first UK player to have four consecutive games of scoring 20-plus points since P.J. Washington in February 2019.

“Antonio Reeves is having a ridiculous year,” Calipari said to begin a lengthy promotion of his fifth-year guard’s play this season. “If there are two or three guards, in the country, playing better than Antonio Reeves, could you name them? Maybe (R.J. Davis) at North Carolina. But name them. Who? And (Reeves) is doing it efficiently.”

Reeves’ scoring prowess has been on display all season long: The Chicago native has scored in double figures in every game but one this season, and he’s also made at least one 3-pointer in every game but one this season.

For his UK career (which is still less than two seasons old), Reeves has made 152 3-pointers, which has him tied for 14th all-time in UK history with Scott Padgett.

And the All-America campaign for Reeves has continued to gain momentum.

On Wednesday, Reeves was one of 40 players named to the 2024 Oscar Robertson Trophy (National Player of the Year) and All-America Watch List by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Ex-Cats Anthony Davis (2012) and Oscar Tshiebwe (2022) have both won the award in the past.

Reeves has also been named to the Naismith Trophy Men’s College Player of the Year Midseason Team, the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 and the Jerry West Award Top 10.

“Every time we need a basket, he goes and gets it,” Calipari said of Reeves. “He’s rebounding. I’m talking like All-American. Why is his name not mentioned? Is it because we have a team full of guys? Or is it because he’s at Kentucky? I don’t know. But I’m kind of like, stunned, that he’s not getting more people ...”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll step down as Senate Republican leader in November. The 82-year-old Kentucky lawmaker is the longest-serving Senate leader in history.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll step down as Senate Republican leader in November. The 82-year-old Kentucky lawmaker is the longest-serving Senate leader in history.

Calipari addresses Mitch McConnell stepping down as Senate leader

Toward the end of his radio show, Calipari dipped into the world of politics and addressed the news of the day: Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history, announced Wednesday he would resign that leadership post in November.

McConnell, 82, still intends to serve through the end of his term as senator, which ends in January 2027.

“Forget about your politics. I don’t know if you’re independent, Republican, Democrat. You don’t know if I am either,” Calipari said. “All I would tell you is, what he’s done for this state over that period of time is crazy. I bet you they could write a big, thick book about all the projects he’s brought to this state. But more importantly, what he’s done to protect and serve.”

McConnell has been a senator representing Kentucky since 1984.

He is the longest-serving U.S. Senate leader in history, and the longest-serving senator from Kentucky.

“Somebody’s got big shoes to fill now. Big shoes. ... He’s Kentucky’s own,” Calipari said.


Arkansas at No. 16 Kentucky

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: CBS-27

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

Records: Arkansas 14-14 (5-10), Kentucky 20-8 (10-5)

Series: Kentucky leads 35-14

Last meeting: Kentucky won 63-57 on Jan. 27 in Fayetteville, Ark.