No matter the competition, venue or environment, Reed Sheppard continues to prove his status as the top player in the state, regardless of class.
The 2023 four-star guard is a unique player playing under unique circumstances, all highlighted at this weekend’s Titans Rockets Summer Shootout in Shelbyville, KY, an event that helped tip off the NCAA’s first evaluation period of the year. Standing 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, Sheppard is one of the biggest players on his North Laurel squad, forcing him to play center on defensive possessions. On the other end, he brings the ball up the floor and initiates the offense as the team’s lead point guard.
It’s never ideal to have your starting point guard anchor the middle on defense – it certainly won’t be asked of him at the next level – but the London, KY standout’s versatility and high IQ made quite the impression on the coaches in attendance.
“He’s got everything,” one high-major coach said of Sheppard on day one. “He plays center on defense and point guard on offense. He might be more athletic than his dad at this age.”
Sheppard made mistakes defensively – he overplayed his hand at times in on-ball situations and gave up shots to two of the best shooters in the state, Travis Perry (Lyon County) and Turner Buttry (Bowling Green) – but the four-star prospect was still a net positive on that end of the floor. He’ll need to work on lateral quickness a touch, but the tools are there. Thing is, though, anything Sheppard can give you on defense is icing on the cake, as his offensive game is already polished and wildly advanced for his age. With two years remaining at the high school level, he’s already solidified himself as a walking bucket, and his game continues to progress every time he steps on the floor.
Leading the state in scoring with 843 points as a sophomore (30.1 PPG), we already knew he could put the ball in the basket; it’s why he’s ranked No. 39 overall in the latest Rivals player rankings. How the North Laurel star puts the ball in the basket, though, is what brought college head coaches such as Tony Bennett (Virginia), Juwan Howard (Michigan), Wes Miller (Cincinnati) and Rick Stansbury (WKU), along with assistants from Louisville and Texas A&M, out to see him in Shelbyville.
Double- and triple-teamed throughout the weekend, Sheppard confidently weaved through traffic to find open looks at all three levels. Give him an open path to the basket, he regularly looked to catch a body with a thunderous dunk down the middle.
— Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) June 19, 2021
At the three-point line, Sheppard sprinkled in makes throughout the weekend, but really caught fire in a win over Shelby County on the first day of the event. He started with a three from 25-feet out at the top of the key, another 23-footer from the left wing, and then a third from the top of the key to score nine of North Laurel’s first 15 points — the team’s other six points came on assists from Sheppard. From there, he carved through the lane for a euro-step finger roll finish at the rim (11), nailed a double-crossover 15-footer from the left elbow for an and-one (14), sank a one-shot free throw (15), drilled a 20-foot three from the right wing (18), another double-crossover stepback three from the right wing (21) and a coast-to-coast finish at the rim (23) in the first half alone.
With a comfortable lead going into the second half, Sheppard added an inbound lay-in right after intermission (24), followed by a one-shot free throw (25), an and-one finish at the rim (28), a pull-up jumper from the free throw line (30), one free throw (31) and a transition bucket at the rim (33) to close out regulation with 33 points on 5/7 shooting from three to go with eight total assists. It was a nearly flawless all-around offensive performance from the in-state star.
To open the day on Saturday, Sheppard’s mid-range game had college coaches in attendance oohing and aahing, with the 6-foot-3 guard keeping defenders off-balance with tight crossovers, two- and three-dribble pull-ups and stepbacks just past the free throw line. Shot after shot, hand in his face or wide open, Sheppard continued to torch the net all game long.
— Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) June 19, 2021
Sheppard was the most consistent and talented scoring threat at the event, but it wasn’t just about the points. If he couldn’t find a good look for himself, he found them for others with brilliant passing and vision, whipping one- and two-handed passes across the court into the shooting pocket of his open teammates. He got a tad sloppy at times when extra defenders came over to help or he found himself backed into a corner, but it’s almost not even worth pointing out considering he usually made up for his mistakes the next time down the floor or on the following defensive possession. The son of the Kentucky basketball legend looked the part, plain and simple. And college coaches in attendance thought that was clear, too.
One high-major college assistant told KSR he was confident Sheppard would end up being the best player out of the state in several decades and felt he is more of a complete player at this stage than 2019 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen was late in his high school basketball career. That same assistant felt Sheppard was “absolutely” Kentucky material.
A rival coach at the event added, “Reed’s not Rex Chapman level quite yet, but he’s on his way.”
Kentucky has made early contact, with assistant coach Orlando Antigua reaching out in the first few days of the contact period with rising juniors last week. It’s not much – Sheppard told KSR that it was a single ‘what’s up’ text message – but it’s there. No matter how John Calipari and the UK coaching staff decide to go about the recruitment, the four-star prospect already has a long list of high-profile suitors ready to take his commitment – Arizona State, Iowa, Louisville and Texas A&M are among the programs to extend early offers – while others such as Virginia and Michigan are lining up to watch him in person and may pull the trigger on offers of their own sooner rather than later.
Sheppard’s final decision remains up in the air, and likely will be for quite some time. What’s becoming clearer every time he steps on the floor now, though, is that the four-star guard isn’t being recruited by the best of the best and shooting up the rankings because he’s the son of Kentucky basketball legend Jeff Sheppard. Schools are prioritizing the rising junior early because he’s a damn good player.