Sheppard knows the pressure of UK basketball

Published 6:21 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Reed Sheppard knows what to expect when he begins his collegiate  career at the University of Kentucky next season.

He will be counted on to produce just as his father Jeff Sheppard did during his storied career with the Wildcats. Sheppard won a pair of national titles (1996-98) and was on the school’s national runner-up team in 1997.

“Once you commit to Kentucky, you expect it,” said Sheppard, who played in the McDonald’s All-American game on Tuesday night in Houston. “I’m just gonna do what I can. I’m going to work as hard as I can.

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“I’m going to do what I can to make the team successful and whether it’s whatever the coaches want, I’m going to do so … With everyone saying stuff, I think that you kind of just got to block all that out and just focus on you and your team and do what you need to do to get a win.”

Sheppard, the state’s Mr. Basketball who led North Laurel to the Sweet 16 for the past two seasons, had a number change for the annual encounter and wore No. 15, his father’s jersey number during his standout career with the Wildcats.

“Dad wore it, so it’s really cool to be able to continue his number and then it says ‘Sheppard’ on the back, so that is pretty cool. When they said it and I found out (that he was issued No. 15) it meant a lot to me knowing that because I’ve always looked up to Dad and he’s always working me out, so being able to finally get his number on my back is a pretty cool moment.”

He attained a lot of his skills from his father and mother Stacey Reed, who also played for the Wildcats.

“I think I do a pretty good job of getting my teammates involved and just knowing where they’re going to be and what spots they’re going to be in. I really just play as hard as I can and do whatever it takes to get a win. I think I’m a team player. Whatever coach is telling me to do, whether it’s getting a stop or get some water, I’m down to do it as long as it helps the team be successful.”

Sheppard is looking forward to playing at Kentucky, which he considers a dream come true.

“I’ve always been a little boy that’s wanted to play at the University of Kentucky,” Sheppard said. “To have that opportunity means a lot and it’s super, special for me to be able to say stay in my hometown and try to put my city on the map and just do it for them.”

Kentucky signees Aaron Bradshaw, DJ Wagner and Justin Edwards also competed in the contest. The three prep standouts will be joined by Robert Dillingham on campus this fall. Sheppard is ready to help lead the Wildcats back to the upper echelon of college basketball following a pair of early exits from the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.

“Going to Kentucky, you have a lot of pressure and knowing that they’ve kind of struggled a little bit in the last few postseasons and the fans are kind of getting a little impatient,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s something you work for and it’s something that you look forward to. Going up there and playing with great players and great coaches and trying to make a run.”