All eyes are on North Laurel standout Reed Sheppard – the nation’s No. 39 overall prospect in Rivals’ updated 2023 rankings and son of two former Kentucky basketball stars, Jeff and Stacey Sheppard – as the NCAA evaluation period opens for the first time this weekend.
Sheppard, a 6-3 shooting guard out of London, KY, currently holds offers from Arizona State, Iowa, Louisville and Texas A&M, among others, with the scholarships from the Sun Devils and Cardinals coming on the first day direct contact with rising juniors was allowed on Wednesday.
Between the phone calls, text messages and non-stop travel for games across the country, it’s been an exhausting month for the in-state standout.
“It’s been a hard month, but it’s been a fun month,” Sheppard told the media at this weekend’s Titans/Rockets Summer Shootout in Shelbyville. “Trying to worry about all the calls and texts that you get, but also staying in the gym with your team and keep working. And then trying to stay in touch with some of your AAU teammates, text them ‘congratulations’ on some of their offers, hope to stay with them and get that chemistry back for July.
“It’s been a fun month, though, something I’ll never forget.”
Among the highlights? His conversation with the Louisville coaching staff that led to the scholarship offer on Wednesday, one he says he’s worked for since he first started playing basketball.
“It meant a lot, it’s something you work for your whole life,” Sheppard said of the UofL offer. “Living in Kentucky, it’s an in-state school — a really big in-state school. Kentucky players, their dream is to play at the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville. To have that Louisville offer, it feels really good.”
Since the contact period opened on Wednesday, Sheppard has been in contact with the likes of Arizona State, College of Charleston, Gonzaga, Indiana, Louisville, Memphis, Virginia and Virginia Tech. He told KSR on Friday that he’s since heard from Clemson, Liberty, and yes, Kentucky.
It’s a direct line of communication Kentucky fans have been begging for since Sheppard emerged as a high-profile prospect in recent years, and now, it’s come to fruition. Thing is, though, it’s not necessarily a consistent line of communication.
“Coach (Orlando) Antigua sent me a text, said ‘what’s up.’ So they kind of have, just reaching out and saying ‘what’s up,’ but not anything other than that,” Sheppard told KSR.
Anything about setting up a visit or a timetable on an offer? “I haven’t really heard anything like that yet,” the four-star guard added.
So yes, Kentucky is technically in contact, but it’s certainly not at the consistency of some of the other top programs making a push. In fact, when the evaluation period opened on Friday, head coaches such as Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Cincinnati’s Wes Miller and Western Kentucky’s Rick Stansbury were all in Shelbyville watching Sheppard in person, with assistants from Louisville and Texas A&M also in attendance. Virginia, Cincinnati and WKU were each two deep with one head coach and one assistant watching courtside.
Kentucky – who is currently hosting two big-time official visitors on campus (Chris Livingston, Shaedon Sharpe) and preparing for a third (Dereck Lively II) later this weekend, mind you – did not make the 45-mile trip.
While Sheppard tried not to focus on the coaches in attendance, he did admit it was “really cool” seeing them in the bleachers, with the vast majority there to watch him and him only.
“I try not to pay attention to it too much, you don’t want to get yourself thinking about that because it’ll affect the way you play,” Sheppard told KSR. “It’s different, it’s cool — it’s really cool actually when you walk in and see them all standing and sitting in the bleachers. It’s interesting, it’s fun.”
As the summer continues and major events ramp up, offers will continue to follow — Virginia and Cincinnati are the two schools to watch in the near future. It’s still early in the process and there’s still plenty of basketball to be played before he worries about a final decision.
When that time comes, though, Sheppard will be choosing the school that “feels like home.”
“Somewhere that feels like family, feels like home,” the four-star guard said of his future decision. “Somewhere that feels like home and where my teammates around me feel like family and friends.”
Could that be Kentucky one day? Maybe — there’s certainly time.
As of today, though, it appears the process is just getting started, especially on UK’s end of things.