Sheppard already providing a steady presence for Wildcats

Published 2:30 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Reed Sheppard’s family roots run deep at the University of Kentucky.

His father, Jeff Sheppard, played for the Wildcats from 1993-98 and won two national titles. His mom, Stacey Reed Sheppard, also played basketball at Kentucky and carved a successful legacy during her career with the Wildcats.

Now following in the footsteps of his parents, Reed Sheppard, a former North Laurel High School standout and the state’s reigning Mr. Basketball, feels no pressure going into his first season at Kentucky. He also is aware of the expectations.

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“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “Growing up in Kentucky with this program was like, you know all about it. Every day, you come in and you compete. The intensity is at the highest level.”

Even Kentucky coach John Calipari has noted Sheppard’s approach and has been impressed with his freshman guard’s workouts behind the scenes.

“He’s been really good,” Calipari said. “He’s one of those guys — that don’t have that expectation stuff where I have to live up to this or that. (He is) just playing.”

In Kentucky’s first exhibition game against Georgetown College last week, Sheppard came off the bench and scored nine points, had two assists, a steal, and two rebounds. Aside from his statistics, it was Sheppard’s demeanor that continues to impress his coach.

“He is steady, steady Eddie,” Calipari said. “He is smart. Shoots it pretty good. He is playing better defense. He is … what a teammate, gets the ball to the right guys. … When he is making easy plays, he is making hard plays look easy, is what he does. But, I’m excited about him.”

During his prep career, Sheppard carried North Laurel on his shoulders and helped the Jaguars become one of the most dominant teams in the 13th Region over the past five years. Now that he’s at Kentucky, Sheppard follows a different pace.

“This is what I’ve wanted my whole life (and) I knew it would be this way,” he said. “I don’t want to go out and shoot 30 shots a game. I want to go out and be able to make the right basketball plays.”

All through the recruiting process, Sheppard didn’t want to rely totally on his parents’ past success with the Wildcats and wanted to take in the process and enjoy the connections he made with various programs across the country.

“I didn’t want it to be anyone else’s decision but mine,” he said. “Through that, I was just enjoying the process. Not everyone gets to talk to Coach Cal every day on the phone and all the other coaches. It was a really cool moment for me.”

He plans on taking the same approach as he enters his first season.

“I just want to have fun and block out what everyone says and just do what I know I can do,” he said. “I’ve worked for this for 18 years now and now finally being here, I’m just having fun and just enjoying it all.”

Kentucky played host to Kentucky State on Thursday in the final tune-up before the season opens Monday night against New Mexico State.