Reed Sheppard is in a wildly unique situation.
He’s the son of two former Kentucky Basketball legends and a homegrown kid attending North Laurel High School, but most importantly, he’s a really good basketball player.
Naturally, Kentucky fans are desperate for Sheppard to one day suit up for the Kentucky Wildcats. Up until yesterday, it felt like that might not ever happen–even though Sheppard still has two years of high school left. Nearby, big-name schools such as Virginia and Louisville had already established an early relationship with Sheppard while Kentucky was sending out a text message only every so often. Was the interest truly there from Kentucky? Or was the minimal contact meant to appease the Big Blue Nation knowing that Sheppard would never play as a Wildcat? Does Coach Cal want to deal with another Dontaie Allen situation?
On Thursday we got our answer, and on Friday there was no denying it anymore: Kentucky wants Reed Sheppard.
John Calipari wouldn’t go watch Sheppard live and in-person with all three of his top assistants surrounding the court if the interest wasn’t there, as they did on Thursday. Sheppard and his Midwest Basketball Club teammates are down in Birmingham, Alabama for the Adidas 3SSB event this weekend, where coaching staffs from across the country are in attendance to learn everything they can about a relatively unknown batch of recruits.
Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua stuck around the next day to watch both of Sheppard’s games. In the first contest on Friday, Sheppard poured in 23 first-half points and helped lead his team to the win down the stretch. At that point, with all the previous knowledge they had on Sheppard, the Kentucky coaching staff had seen more than enough.
“After our first game yesterday, Coach Cal called him (Reed) and offered him a scholarship,” Midwest Basketball Club head coach Brook Cupps told KSR. “Cal had talked to Jeff and Stacey too. I think after Cal was there he reached out and said we’ll talk later on. I think he had a little bit of an idea that might happen but he was surprised by it. Just because they hadn’t been in contact a whole lot compared to what some other people have done. From their perspective, they were just waiting to see him play.”
To help give you a better idea of how much Kentucky fans want Sheppard, let’s do some Twitter sleuthing. Sheppard has posted 11 scholarship offers to his Twitter account, only two of those posts have more than 1,000 likes: Lousiville with close to 2,100 and Kentucky with an outstanding 7,200 likes.
It’s starting to feel like Calipari has wanted Sheppard all along, too. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic took away in-person recruiting for roughly 18 months, it would make sense for Kentucky to check all the boxes and make sure Sheppard is who they think he is. You don’t have four coaches watching a single player at once if you aren’t serious about recruiting him.
“I’ve had several coaches tell me they were waiting to see guys live and I honestly don’t blame them,” Coach Cupps added. “I think it’s too big of an investment, too big of a commitment, to not be able to see the good and the bad with a kid. You’re talking about the culture of your program, you wanna make sure that’s gonna match and that’s gonna fit. As soon as they saw him live, that finished the thought process for them. It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing against really good guys. He’s playing up a year against really good guys. He’s proven that he can compete with anybody in the country.”
Sheppard was excited about receiving his offer from Kentucky, Cupps said, which came shortly before the Indiana coaching staff did the same. To say that picking up offers from the Wildcats and Hoosiers in the same day, as a Kentucky kid, isn’t a big deal would have been disingenuous.
“He was obviously really excited,” Cupps added. “Indiana and Kentucky in the same day is a pretty good day. Not a whole lot of kids get to experience that.”
In a way, there is a sense of relief for Sheppard now, even if he is excited about the Kentucky offer. You know he’s heard at least some of the outside noise that connects him to UK. But Kentucky saw him and decided he was good enough to play in Lexington. Now Sheppard is going to have his own pick at a school. The pressure of trying to earn that offer–from both himself and the Kentucky fans surrounding him–is no longer there. He can just go out there and hoop.
“From his side of it, now it’s his choice. It’s not like well Kentucky never offered me,” Coach Cupps said. “Now it becomes his choice and he feels a lot more comfortable that way and he can decide what’s best for him. His parents, Jeff and Stacey, are going to let him make a decision and do what he thinks is best for him. Hopefully, Reed can take everything into consideration and put himself in the best situation to be successful.”