By Braedan Shea
It is clear to anyone that watches Reed Sheppard that he attacks the game of basketball like no other. The 6-foot-3 point guard from North Laurel High School (KY) plays with a certain swagger that makes the game appear effortless.
As the conductor of the Jaguars offense, Sheppard always hits the open man, is comfortable with the ball in both hands and has a picturesque jumper, all while still playing strong, sneaky defense. And when the game is on the line, Sheppard is always calm and collected, unfazed by the situation.
Sheppard’s fluid playstyle was on full display during North Laurel’s battle against Mount St. Joseph High School (MD) at the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic, especially down the stretch when his team needed it most. In a game that the Jaguars were trailing for all but 27 seconds, Sheppard had never given up, and was threatening to complete a significant comeback victory.
With just two minutes remaining and his team down by five, Sheppard called his own number – despite his shot not falling in the first half. Passively dribbling the ball to his right, he appeared as if he was going to slow the game down and set up a play. But right as his defender relaxed, Sheppard exploded off his right foot, crossing over to his left hand, unleashing a near 30-footer.
The crowd erupted as the ball swished through the net – making it a one possession game. Although North Laurel would end up falling, 54-48, Sheppard put up a near triple double with 13 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, three blocks and two steals, securing him his team’s Most Outstanding Player of the game.
Sheppard’s late game heroics make it as if he had basketball written into his DNA.
And it’s probably because he does.
Sheppard is the son of two of the best players in the University of Kentucky’s basketball history. His father, Jeff, won two championships while attending Kentucky – his first in 1996 and later again in 1998, the latter of which he won MVP of the Final Four. His mother, Stacey, still ranks in the top 10 in Kentucky women’s basketball history in games started (110), field-goal attempts (1,318), made threes (175), 3-point attempts (548), assists (442) and steals (309).
With such incredible talents from his parents, Sheppard looks to follow in their footsteps. In 2021, he made a verbal commitment to play at the same school that his parents did.
Sheppard has been nothing short of a superstar in high school. He has built himself a very impressive resume.
Last season, he averaged 25.5 points, 7.6 assists, 6.8 rounds and 4.4 steals, earning himself the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year award. He also led North Laurel past three-time defending state champions Knox Central, 69-56, to win their first region title since 2012. He led all scorers in the game, posting a dominant double-double of 37 points and 11 assists.
The high level of play of Sheppard has made him one of the most sought after high school basketball players for college coaches. Kentucky just stood out more than the rest.
“It means a lot,” Sheppard said of his commitment. “Growing up from Kentucky, it’s always been my dream to go and play [there]. Knowing that my parents both played at Kentucky makes it even more special – knowing that I’m kind of continuing the legacy of their footsteps. That’s something that I’m really looking forward to and super excited about.”
That excitement is shared by his parents.
“Well, we’re excited,” Jeff said. “Number one – just because it’s our son. We have a daughter (Madison), and she just finished playing college basketball. For them to have the gift from God to be able to play basketball in high school and college is special. For Reed, to be able to go to Kentucky because we did, is obviously extra special, so we’re really thankful and excited for him.”
With such great careers by both of his parents, some have questioned if Sheppard will be able to build his own legacy.
Sheppard and his family don’t think that will be a problem.
“I think I can go on and create my own name,” Sheppard said. “People know me for me now, not as Jeff and Stacey’s kid. But I think it’ll be a fun experience in the fall – it’s gonna be awesome.”
“He’s a different player than both of us,” Stacey added. “So far, he’s created his own path – he’s his own individual, and his own personality, and his game speaks for itself. I think he’ll be fine. He’s learned not to compare himself to what his dad and I have done, and I think he’ll be special.”
Sheppard is joined by many other high level talents at Kentucky, headlined by the ESPN Class of 2023 No.1-ranked player, DJ Wagner. Justin Edwards (No. 2), Aaron Bradshaw (No. 5) and Robert Dillingham (No. 8) round out Kentucky’s stacked recruiting class heading into next year.
But even with such a promising career ahead of him, Sheppard wants to stay focused and in the moment. He still has things he wants to accomplish this year. While winning a Kentucky High School Athletic Association State Championship is toward the top of that list － something he has yet to do － it’s not the most important thing.
“Biggest thing is just to have fun and enjoy my senior season,” he said. “I’ve been playing with a lot of these students since I’ve been in third grade, and they’re all my best friends. On the court or off, we’re best buddies that go out and eat out and hang out together. It’s really cool that I’ve been able to spend this senior season with them. So I’m just gonna go out and have fun and enjoy every minute of it that I can.”
Photo: Luke Whitehouse/The Springfield Student