NCAA Tourney Stars Basketball

In this March 30, 1998, file photo, Kentucky's Jeff Sheppard (15) drives against Utah's Drew Hansen at the NCAA men's Final Four championship game in San Antonio. Kentucky defeated Utah 78-69. Sheppard works as a financial planner now and is over two decades removed from the time he helped Kentucky win the NCAA Tournament. Yet he still gets asked regularly about his role in the Wildcats’ 1998 national championship. (AP Photo/Susan Ragan, File)

Jeff Sheppard works as a financial planner now, more than two decades removed from the time he helped Kentucky win the NCAA Tournament.

Yet he still gets asked regularly about his role in the Wildcats' 1998 national championship.

"They remember where they were when they watched the championship game and that kind of thing," said Sheppard, who works in Lexington and lives about an hour away in London, Kentucky. "It's definitely a lot of fun."

Sheppard went undrafted after that glorious run and played part of one NBA season with the Atlanta Hawks in 1998-99 before playing a few years in Italy. He is not the only most outstanding player from a Final Four to play fewer than 20 games in the NBA.

In Sheppard's case, he decided to redshirt the 1996-97 season as a senior at the prompting of Rick Pitino, Kentucky's coach at the time. Sheppard was stuck behind future NBA lottery picks Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer at shooting guard.

"I had a choice," Sheppard said. "I could battle it out for playing time with those guys or redshirt, let them be the featured players in '97 and go on to the pros, and then it was my spot to lose in '98.''

The wait proved worthwhile. As a fifth-year senior, Sheppard helped that 1997-98 team win a national title for Tubby Smith, who took over when Pitino left for the Boston Celtics job.

Sheppard scored 27 points in an 86-85 overtime semifinal victory over Stanford and 16 more in the 78-69 championship game triumph over Utah.

Staying in school an extra year meant Sheppard entered the draft at the relatively advanced age of 23, though he doesn't think that played much of a factor in his short pro career.

"A 23-year-old going into the draft (now), it's almost a disadvantage," said Sheppard, who also was part of Kentucky's 1996 championship team. "It wasn't quite that way back then. You had a lot of guys who were four-year guys going into the NBA. I was a 6-3, 185-pound shooting guard. I was good in a lot of areas. I don't know if I was great in any area."

Some other former Final Four most outstanding players without long NBA track records:

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