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San Diego State Basketball: Sporting News names Winston Shepard a preseason All-American hopeful

Winston Shepard has the skill set and team around him to become the fifth player under head coach Steve Fisher to garner All-American honors from the Associated Press.

Kent Horner

In June, Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy identified 10 "likely/potential All-American small forwards," and San Diego State forward Winston Shepard was one of them. DeCourcy also named Arizona's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Nebraska's Terran Petteway, Michigan State's Branden Dawson, Michigan's Caris LeVert, Duke's Justise Winslow, Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, UConn's Daniel Hamilton, Kansas' Kelly Oubre and BYU's Tyler Haws as the other All-American hopefuls.

This comes in a preseason where CBS Sport's Jon Rothstein named Shepard to his early preseason All-MWC first team, and it seems like most major publications identify Shepard as the leader of this 2014-15 SDSU team and write that he's poised for a big year. He's even on several early mock 2015 NBA Drafts.

So, Sporting News could definitely be right. It seems Shepard really could be an All-American this year.

San Diego State's Men's head basketball coach, Steve Fisher, has not only gutted and overhauled the culture on Montezuma Mesa and transformed SDSU into a regional powerhouse, but he has had a large hand in the development of his star players. During his tenure Fisher has guided four players--Brandon Heath, Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames--to five All-American seasons and four in as many years.

With the departure of Thames, an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American for 2014, the limelight now belongs to Shepard. What differentiates him from his fellow talented teammates is what all of the previous All-Americans in the Fisher era have had: versatility.

Shepard, at 6-foot-8, has the size and the athleticism to play down-low with his back to the basket and has demonstrated that he is not afraid to draw contact: he finished second in free throw attempts per game (5.8) and rebounds per game (4.9) for the Aztecs last season. He has also proved that the offense can be run through him, as he displayed good vision as a point-forward ending the season with 2.1 assists per game, while managing to still find his own offensive rhythm, finishing last year with 11.6 points per game--both only second to Thames.

Defensively, Shepard is everything Fisher could want in a player. He is long, has quick hands, great lateral quickness, and has a knack to disrupt his opponent's timing. He validated his defensive prowess last season by defending everything from the opposition's point guard to their power forward.

As in all college athletes, there is always room for improvement, and Shepard is no different as his jumpshot leaves a lot to be desired. His outside shooting last season was poor as he ended the season shooting 31.5 percent in the Mountain West tournament and an way-too-low 28 percent in the NCAA Tournament.

If Shepard should improve that significant weakness in his game, then he should be likely to continue the almost half-decade tradition of an SDSU basketball player receiving AP All-American honors.