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For the Sheppards, there’s no place like home

Les Dixon/Corbin Times Photos

Other schools did all they could to recruit Reed Sheppard but they never really had a chance.

The 6-3 North Laurel High School junior guard verbally committed to Kentucky Saturday. That’s the same place his father, Jeff, was on two national championship teams and was the 1998 Final Four MVP. His mother, Stacey Reed, is still 13th on the all-time scoring list at UK.

“There’s not a reason,” Reed Sheppard said about why he didn’t pick Virginia, Louisville, Indiana or Ohio State. “They are all great schools. I enjoyed watching practices and meeting the coaches and seeing the facilities they had.

“But with Kentucky, it just felt like home. The people around me felt like family. It felt different and it has always been a dream of mine to play at Kentucky.”

Sheppard averaged 30.1 points per game and shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season at North Laurel but his stock soared during summer league play. He’s now ranked in the top 20 overall in the 2023 recruiting class.

“He’s got better every year he has been here and continues to improve,” North Laurel coach Nate Valentine said. “A lot of people kind of questioned how good he was despite what he did for us and wanted to see him against national competition but I see every day how good he is.

“I am glad he got an opportunity to prove that last summer. I watch him every day and nothing he did over the summer surprised me. He stands out all the time. He can just do things not a lot of players can do.”

Sheppard’s parents were both popular UK players and Reed Sheppard’s recruitment has been huge news in the Bluegrass. The North Laurel junior doesn’t expect that to change even with his verbal commitment to UK.

“I don’t think it is going to stop. There was a lot of pressure not just to pick Kentucky but from the whole (recruiting) thing. You get phone calls every day, text messages every day,” Reed Sheppard said. “I am 17. I am a little kid. Having to deal with all that is a lot. It got overwhelming for a little bit.

“I knew what I wanted to do. I told my dad I did not want to wait and be overwhelmed. He said not to wait then and we went ahead and did this.”

The Sheppard family went to Lexington to tell coach John Calipari and his staff personally that Reed Sheppard was going to commit to UK. They didn’t tell the UK staff why they came so they could surprise Calipari.

It worked but Reed Sheppard might have been even more pleasantly surprised by what the Kentucky coach told him after he broke the news to him.

“It was a lot of pressure off after I told him and he could have said I needed to do this and that to prepare (to play at UK) and that would have put more pressure on me. He realizes I have two more years before college, and that’s a long time.

“I am just going to have fun, so what he said meant a lot to me. I can quit worrying and stressing out and just have fun with my friends playing basketball because this is my last two years to be with them.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as http://www.yoursportsedge.com/, and http://www.cameronmillsradio.com/. Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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