As son prepares for debut, Jeff Sheppard reflects on the end of his UK career

Published 4:00 pm Monday, July 10, 2023

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Freshman guard Reed Sheppard makes his Kentucky debut this week in the Global Jam in Toronto.

His father, Jeff Sheppard, finished his UK career in 1998 strong but a little hobbled.

He suffered a severe ankle sprain in the SEC Tournament and missed the SEC championship game. Many thought Jeff Sheppard might miss at least the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament or maybe even more to severely damage UK’s national championship hopes.

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He spent an entire night having the ankle treated before the NCAA opener, played even though the ankle/leg was noticeably discolored and was UK’s best player in two wins.

“I was not hurt that bad. I just twisted my ankle and was just trying to embellish the story,” Jeff Sheppard said.

He had 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in a 78-69 comeback win over Utah in the championship game. In the semifinal game against Stanford, he had 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. He hit two 3-pointers late in regulation and in overtime scored off a drive and then hit a 3 in the 86-85 win with his free throw providing the winning point.

“I got to be part of an incredible run at Kentucky,” Sheppard, who was redshirted in 1997 when UK was national runner-up. “The 1992 team was phenomenal and lost that incredible game to Duke. The 1993 team lost to Michigan in the Final Four. The 1995 team should have been national champion but lost to North Carolina. In 1999 (coach) Tubby (Smith) lost to Michigan State to go to the Final Four.

“We won titles in 1996 and 1998 and lost to Arizona in the final in 1997 in overtime. Every single year in the 90s, Kentucky had a national championship-caliber team. I am really thankful I learned so  many life lessons from my time at UK that I am trying to share today as a father, husband and community member.”