Sheppard’s sister was his protector during recruiting process

Published 2:30 pm Sunday, December 26, 2021

Before Reed Sheppard finally committed to play basketball at the University of Kentucky where both his parents played, his sister was not convinced he was going to pick UK.

“It was about 50-50 with me,” said Madison Sheppard, a senior at Campbellsville University. “Part of me actually thought he would choose a different route. I am not going to lie because at one point I thought he might not pick Kentucky because there was so much pressure on him that people did not realize.

“But Kentucky got really consistent recruiting him and everything Kentucky presented was just awesome. Once we visited for Big Blue Madness together, I had a good feeling he would choose Kentucky then.”

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Reed Sheppard, a 6-3 junior combo guard at North Laurel High School, is a top 20 player nationally in one recruiting service. Going into play this week, he was averaging 24.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent overall from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.

He was named Most Valuable Player in the King of the Bluegrass tournament and had a triple-double — 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists (along with four steals) — in the title game loss to Covington Catholic.

The five-star guard had visited Virginia, Ohio State, Indiana, and Louisville before making his decision to play at Kentucky like his parents, Stacey Reed and Jeff Sheppard, did.

“I think he handled all the pressure well for a high school junior,” Madison Sheppard said. “There were times he was overwhelmed. He just wants to be a normal kid but it’s not going to get any easier for him just because he committed to UK. He decided that’s just how it will be and he can live with it.”

Madison was a successful high school player and was part of a winning program at Campbellsville before a back injury forced her to give up playing what would have been her senior season this year. She’s still part of the team — “It’s hard to sit on the bench and watch but I am a big cheerleader because all I can do is stand and yell as loud as I can.”

Reed Sheppard admitted his sister gave him sound advice during his recruitment.

“Chemistry is so important and I explained to him to look at the way players interacted with one another on the teams he was looking at. Did he see any selfishness or do they all love one another? I encouraged him to look at that,” she said.

“I told him to watch how the coaches interact with players outside of basketball. Are they invested in the players? I also told him to see if there was any type of team ministry and was it a priority for the team to put the Lord first because without the Lord there is no way to be successful.”

Reed Sheppard’s sister said UK’s team chemistry and the chemistry coach John Calipari had with the players was one reason her brother committed to UK. The players were watching football together and invested in other sports together. There were no signs of selfishness.

Madison Sheppard was not shy about asking college head coaches questions, either.

“One question I asked them was how do you plan to invest in Reed outside of basketball. A couple of coaches were thrown off by that but Cal gave me a great answer,” Madison Sheppard said. “It was just important to me as an older sister to see what they had planned.

“Coach Cal calls me ‘The Protector’ because of how I look out for Reed. It’s funny how our last name is Sheppard and we also have that protective instinct like a shepherd. We look after each other.”

Now there were times with no love lost between sister and younger brother when they did play basketball against each other.

“There were actually very few times we played against each other because we were both so competitive it would end in a fight,” Madison Sheppard said. “I was really hard on Reed in some ways but I was also super protective and proud of him since the moment he was born.”

Madison knows she gets to watch him another two seasons at North Laurel where he plays with his childhood friends.

“He loves to be around them. Now that he has all that weight off his shoulders about making a decision, he can relax and play and smile and just have fun,” Madison said. “I think he will have a phenomenal year. I know how excited fans are to see a future UK star play in all these high school gyms. He loves big games. He loves people hollering at him from the student sections. He embraces that because nobody loves to compete more than him.”