Reed Sheppard and his family prefer to keep things quiet.
Outside of announcing the most recent offer to come through from various Power 5 programs — which now includes the Kentucky Wildcats — Sheppard is a mouse on Twitter. His parents, Jeff and Stacey, two legendary hoopers from Kentucky Basketball past, don’t have Twitter Fingers. The family operates in relative silence and that’s how they like it.
But the younger Sheppard now holds an offer from Kentucky after the coaching staff saw all they needed during last weekend’s Adidas 3SSB event down in Birmingham, Alabama. The spotlight is only going to grow brighter with two more years of high school left for the rising junior at North Laurel. The pressure of earning an offer from UK is now off of Sheppard, but the expectation to live up to the Kentucky standard is higher than its ever been.
Here’s the thing about the Sheppard family, though: they’ve raised Reed in preparation for what lies ahead. In their circle, not much has changed following the offer. Fans and media members (KSR included) are going to continue to follow his every move, but Reed will continue to put his head down and work on his game with his family right by his side.
“I think everybody else puts a lot more emphasis on him,” North Laurel head coach Nate Valentine recently told KSR. “Obviously it’s a big deal. He (Reed) grew up in Kentucky, his mom and dad played at Kentucky, but he does a tremendous job of staying focused and on the task at hand. He really doesn’t let himself get consumed with the recruiting process right now. He really just focuses on playing the next game… He just doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about that stuff.”
Sheppard’s recruitment has seen a significant rise in attention over the last few months. An offer from Texas A&M came in at the end of March and he’s since received Power 5 offers from Louisville, Arizona State, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio State, and Clemson. Virginia and Gonzaga have also been poking around.
Sheppard was recently tabbed as a top 65 prospect from the class of 2023 by multiple outlets. He was one of the top overall performers, regardless of age, in Birmingham. More schools will try to get involved as his stock keeps booming.
Watching Sheppard on the court, he wastes no time showing off his various talents. He’s an excellent scorer from all three areas of the floor, a highly underrated passer, and a brilliant basketball mind. But it doesn’t matter if he has 30 points or three points, his facial expressions remain the same–unbothered and indifferent. On the surface, Sheppard never gets too high or too low.
That’s the exact same way he and his family approach his recruitment–they almost try and make it feel “boring”, but not necessarily on purpose. Both Jeff and Stacey went through recruiting processes as well before attending Kentucky, although the times have definitely changed since then. In that sense, the family has a small leg up in how to play the field. They know what it feels like to be in Reed’s sneakers.
“That’s how the entire family is,” Coach Valentine said about the Sheppard family’s quiet nature. “Jeff and Stacey, they’re just not–you don’t see them like you do some parents on Twitter and Facebook, promoting their kid. They let Reed be Reed and they let everyone else form their own opinion. If you like his game, you like his game, and if you don’t, you don’t, and it’s no big deal. That’s just who they are. They go about their business and they’re extremely strong in their faith and they really believe that this whole thing will shake out however it’s supposed to shake out.
“If Kentucky wants him to come there and that’s where he wants to go then that’s where he’ll be. But if both sides say it’s not a good fit that’s okay too. They’re completely fine with that. They just do a really good job of keeping it boring. One day at a time and everything will work out.”
That approach has worked rather well thus far. Reed Sheppard is easily the biggest name in Kentucky High School basketball right now but arguably the most popular prospect that we know little about. Outside of his parent’s history, all we truly know about Reed is that he grew up in Kentucky, he’s good at the game of basketball, and many programs want him to show it on their respective campus. He’s also still a kid at 17 years old.
“Reed is the type of kid you almost have to force him to think about the recruiting process a little bit,” Coach Valentine added. “He just doesn’t allow his mind to go there and his parents do a good job of staying grounded and keeping him grounded. He’s a special kid.”
The offer from Kentucky itself wasn’t too big of a shock, but the timing of it sure was. Coach Valentine and Reed spoke with the Kentucky coaching staff back in February, when UK told Reed they would come out to see him at some point and they believed he had the potential to play at Kentucky. It just took those five months in between for the staff to stand by their word.
Sheppard got off to an impressive start in the Adidas 3SSB event. Calipari brought out the reinforcements during the opening day, stationing himself and assistant coaches Orlando Antigua, Jai Lucas, and Chin Coleman around Reed’s game. The next day, Reed poured in 23 first-half points during his second outing of the event, which was all assistant coach Orlando Antigua needed. The offer came shortly after that game from Coach Calipari and Coach Antigua with the Sheppards receiving the news in a hotel room by themselves.
But as quiet as the family is, it’s impossible to deny the significance of a Kentucky boy with Kentucky parents picking up a Kentucky offer.
“I don’t think they were prepared for the entire staff to be there and then call in the next day and offer him,” Coach Valentine admitted. “I think we had a pretty good idea that they were going to watch him play and they were going to be in contact. But an offer coming from Kentucky–Reed is the fourth 2023 kid (with an offer) so obviously didn’t feel like maybe it was coming that day but felt it would come one day. It was certainly a surprise. For a kid growing up watching Kentucky, you’re surrounded by that, you live in the middle of Big Blue Country and you’re kinda starstruck by it.”
Heading into his junior season, Reed is going to have an even bigger target on his back. Opponents were already coming out and attacking North Laurel this past season knowing the budding hype around the team’s star player, but with crowds expected back this season and state-wide fans clamoring for him to one day pick the ‘Cats, avoiding the noise will be impossible at times.
“That’s what fans do,” Coach Valentine added. “They wanna be involved, they just don’t know how to be involved so they choose to do what they do.”
That being said, Reed has been preparing for years for this exact moment.
“That’s what he’s working for. He’s working to be on that stage,” Coach Valentine said. “So all the early morning lifts and the early morning workouts that he puts in, that’s something we constantly remind our guys when we show up and the other team sells the gym out. That’s what we work for. It’s not intimidating it’s what we want. We want to be relevant and Reed wants to be relevant as a player. He wants to be one of the top players in the country and have a chance to play in the NBA and that’s the territory that comes with it.”