1-on-1 with Pacers rookie guard Ben Sheppard — acclimating to a new system, playing smart and taking pride in his defense
After being a four-year player at Belmont, Sheppard was a first-round pick. He fits the Pacers' culture and will be a boost on both ends.
The start of Pacers training camp was like a breath of fresh air for rookie Ben Sheppard. For the past four years, it’s all been the same for him.
Same system at Belmont University, flying under the radar (per usual) and the same daily routine.
Now it’s totally different. He’s a pro and his daily focus is solely on basketball. Then there’s a void of time to fill.
Sheppard, 22, prides himself on being a smart player, hard worker and super competitive. If you mention his sharpshooting, he rather talk about defense.
Even though he’s out of school, he remains studious and actively watches film — of the league, of teammates and of himself because there’s always room for improvement. Going from college to the pros is a huge shift, but he’s worked at it all summer beginning with rookie/free-agent camp and then summer league.
On media day, he singled out veterans like T.J. McConnell, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield for assisting in the transition.
“I think conditioning is a huge part of my game and if you watch Buddy, every game he is just moving around and creating for others,” Sheppard said. “That’s kind of what I want to model my game after. Especially the way he shoots the ball — that’s what I do and I think that’s why the team brought me here. Just doing my best.”
Sheppard participated in the team’s 10th pre-draft workout, back on June 8. He thought he made a strong impression and left with a good feeling, but otherwise did his best to tune out the noise. From the mock drafts to speculation and rumors on social media, he wasn’t having it.
Just focus on the process, he believed, and the results will come.
He left an impression with reporters too — his smile, competitiveness and desire to be part of something much bigger than himself.
During the pre-draft process, he leaned on a few people: coaches, his agent and Ian Clark, a Belmont product (2009-2013) who spent time in the NBA with the Jazz, Nuggets, Warriors and Pelicans. Sheppard was prepared for this moment and what was to come.
On draft night, he was surrounded by family and a few close friends at STK Steakhouse in New York City as he waited to hear his name called and learn where he’d live next after being in Nashville the past four years.