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Mark Pope wants Reed Sheppard to follow his heart

Nick Roushby:Nick Roush04/15/24


Mark Pope returned to Kentucky to find a Rupp Arena without an empty seat. Sunday was an emotional day for the BBN as it turned the page from one era to the next, all while scratching a nostalgic itch. There’s one person who can tie in the past with the present and provide star power for Pope.

Reed Sheppard was not in the building when the Kentucky bus pulled into Rupp. His father, Jeff, was on that bus with his former roommate. Sunday afternoon’s celebration was not the time to pressure the National Freshman of the Year into sticking around Lexington for another year. That’s why Pope only made an indirect reference to Reed.

“Our job as coaches is we get to be shepherds,” said Pope, which prompted fans to start “One more year!” chants.

We have not heard from Reed yet. The morning after Pope agreed to become the coach, Jeff Sheppard went on a media tour. He spoke to the Herald-Leader, Alan Cutler, WKYT and many more, praising the hire of his long-time friend.

“Shep and Stacey are two of my favorite people in the whole world,” Pope told Tom Leach Sunday afternoon. “Of course, Jeff and I were college roommates. We have stories, a lot that would probably be inappropriate to share on camera, although I think Shep’s been sharing some of them. We had to protect some other people…”

The family connections run deep. When Pope was an assistant at Georgia, he jokingly gave a 7-year-old Reed his first in-home visit. Rather than using those to convince Reed Sheppard to turn for another year, Mark Pope is telling his college best friend’s son to follow his heart, wherever that may be.

“Reed, come on. Reed is special. What he did this year is so spectacular. What he’s meant to the state of Kentucky basketball is so spectacular. He’s also earned the right to be a lottery pick in the NBA,” Pope said.

“My conversation so far and will continue to be, my only counsel is, go find where your heart is. Where is your heart? He’s earned that. He deserves that. Of course, we’re going to lose our minds if at some point if Reed decided to come back, but he can’t come back if his heart is moved on to chase the next part of his dream. And there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a beautiful kid.”

Sunday provided a heartwarming moment for the BBN. Fans can only hope it accomplished the same for the sensational in-state star who has a very important decision on the horizon.

Want to hear more from Mark Pope? His first coaches show is tonight at 7 pm on the UK Sports Network.

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