Reed Sheppard’s past will guide his future at UK

Published 3:05 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

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Reed Sheppard was going to grow up a Kentucky fan considering his father, Jeff, was the 1998 Final Four most outstanding player for UK, and his mother, Stacey Reed, was one of the all-time best women’s players at Kentucky.

Sheppard was always around Kentucky basketball because of his parents, and one of his favorite Wildcats was current Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, the Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year his one season at UK who was the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

“I got to meet him once, and he was a great dude,” Sheppard said at the McDonald’s All-American Game in Houston. “He was a great player and scorer.”

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That “great player, great scorer” description fits Sheppard, who is part of Kentucky’s top-ranked recruiting class for next season when Sheppard will be learning from Tyler Ulis, a student assistant on John Calipari’s staff.

Ulis was Booker’s teammate at UK, and the 5-8 point guard was Kentucky’s first Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year in 2016 as a sophomore when he was also the SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Ulis also played in the NBA before a car accident in 2022 left him with a broken ankle, foot and wrist. He returned to Kentucky and joined Calipari’s staff and intends to be on the staff again next season when Sheppard is a freshman.

Sheppard thinks it is “cool” that he will be playing at UK where his two former favorite players did, and he even showed Ulis a picture he had taken with him at Fayette Mall when Sheppard was in elementary school.

The North Laurel standout believes he was in the third or fourth grade when he had the picture taken with Ulis and has it saved on his cell phone. Sheppard showed it to Ulis and the former UK star had the future Cat send it to him.

“It’s pretty cool seeing how I was a fan of his growing up, and now I’m going to be playing for him at Kentucky,” Sheppard said about Ulis.

Sheppard scored 3,727 points at North Laurel, third best in state history. His 1,214 assists put him second all-time in the state —Ulis led UK’s 38-1 team in assists in 2014-15 —and his 653 steals are a state record. He also pulled off 1,050 rebounds.

Not only was Sheppard named a McDonald’s All-American, but he also was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball.

“When you hear your name called for such an awesome award, it is just a surreal moment,” Sheppard said. “It was really cool when everybody started clapping. To be able to win that award with so many other great players who also deserved to win…that just means a lot, and it is something I will cherish the rest of my life.”

However, he’s hoping to make a lot more memories he’ll cherish at Kentucky just like his parents did.

“The UK coaches have reached out to me and can’t wait for all of us (freshmen) to get up there. They are excited to coach me and I am excited to let them do that,” Sheppard said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable experience with great teammates and great coaches. I am already super excited, even though the expectations and pressure will be a lot higher. It will be different, but it will also be fun.”