Kasey Shepherd is reaching new heights in BCL together with Nizhny Novgorod

2021-03-28T16:43:43+00:00 2021-03-28T16:58:40+00:00.


28/Mar/21 16:43


Kasey Shepherd has been outstanding this season in the Basketball Champions League, as has been the case with the whole Nizhny Novgorod squad, and they are aiming for the top

By Stefan Djordjevic / sdjordjevic@eurohoops.net

Nizhny Novgorod is the first team to qualify for the 2021 Basketball Champions League Final Eight Tournament and they did it in a convincing fashion.

After going 4-2 in the regular season against Casademont Zaragoza, Falco Szombathely, and Pszczolka Start Lublin in Group D, coach Zoran Lukic’s squad surprised the continent by starting the Round of 16 with a perfect 4-0 record.

And they’ve done it in a challenging Group K which featured big names such as AEK, Turk Telekom, and SIG Strasbourg, leaving at least one of the initial title-contenders eliminated.

It didn’t seem like the Russian team would go down this road as they trailed 22-7 against Strasbourg in the playoffs opener. However, from that point onward, everything turned around for Nizhny. A huge reason for that has been Kasey Shepherd.

He led the comeback against Strasbourg with 26 points and then followed up with 19, 32, and 17 points in the next three games.

The 32-point performance, which marked his new career-high, came in the second clash against Turk Telekom and it was an almost perfect display of shooting.

Shepherd went 8-9 from long range, just two threes shy of the competition record, but it was a record when it comes to accuracy as he has set the new mark with 88.9%.

The ‘eruption’ of the 26-year-old American who played in Montenegro (Ulcinj), Hungary (Kaposvari), Georgia (Batumi), and Ukraine (Kyiv) before arriving in Nizhny, might not have happened was it not for his showing in the BCL qualifiers with Kyiv last season which most likely caught the eye of coach Lukic and his associates.

Regardless of the spotlight shining on him this season, Shepherd humbly keeps his feet stable on the ground and looks to improve further.

“It was just a good day. Today was my day, maybe the next game is Astap’s day or Andrey’s or Komo. So, enjoying this but continuing to work on my mistakes and moving forward. But it was a good game for sure,” he said after the stellar career-best versus Turk Telekom and added.

“It was a good game, a good team game. We shot the ball pretty well. It was a big win that we need and we just need to continue to get better, continue to focus on our mistakes, play together, and keep moving forward.”

“We shot the ball pretty well” could be used to describe the whole Nizhny Novgorod’s run this season in BCL as the squad is one of the three that have been shooting over 40% from deep. They, in fact, lead the category.

When it comes to his 17-point stat line against AEK, Shepherd also dished out eight assists, showing his facilitating skills and ability to take on the point guard duties. That might have been the most impressive win by Nizhny this season as they beat the Greeks by a 28-point margin in their third BCL game in eight days, second in three days.

He’s been averaging 18.8 points which put him among the top five scorers who are still active this season while also adding 4.9 assists, and 3.3 rebounds so far in the Basketball Champions League.

Another interesting fact has been that coach Lukic tends to use the American guard as the sixth man and it led to stats showing Nizhny’s bench as dominant on a regular basis. It also led to a few records for Shepherd as well.

He became only the third player in BCL history to combine for 30+ points and 5+ assists in a game while coming from the bench, after Kendrick Ray (30 points and 6 assists for Nymburk vs AEK) and Tyrese Rice (33 points and 8 assists for Brose Bamberg vs Montakit Fuenlabrada).

He has also been the only player to have combined 15+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists in multiple games while coming from the bench in the BCL this season (also v Casademont Zaragoza in January).

Shepherd’s numbers alone make him a serious MVP candidate, especially taking into consideration the recent playoff performances. If he continues dominating the way he’s been doing so far and leads Nizhny to the Final Four, he will without a doubt take the most valuable award.

Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League