“It felt like home.” Reed Sheppard dead set on decision to play for Kentucky


Reed Sheppard poses for picture with family after committing to the University of Kentucky at North Laurel High School | Photo by Jaron Centers

Jaron Centers

“It’s just special.” 

Reed Sheppard was adamant when asked how it felt to announce his commitment to Kentucky on Saturday. 

While Sheppard’s announcement ceremony was relatively short, it’s been a long road to where Sheppard is today,—in his words, a “lifelong” road to this moment. 

Bright and early at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday in London, Kentucky, Sheppard announced his commitment to play basketball at the University of Kentucky. Surrounded by family, friends, teammates and coaches, anyone could tell you that by the smile on his face, Sheppard knew that Kentucky was it. 

The son of Kentucky basketball legend Jeff Sheppard, a two-time national champion, and Stacey Reed Sheppard, a top-ten all time leading scorer at UK, Reed was seemingly destined for this moment, certainly in the eyes of a rabid fan base that has a particular soft spot for in-state recruits. 

After the announcement, the first thing Sheppard said was, “It just feels great.”

“Finally being able to have this opportunity, it’s just special,” Sheppard said. “Growing up from Kentucky, it’s been a dream of mine to play here. I’ve been to all kinds of games, been around the campus my whole life, it’s just special to have this opportunity.”

Being from the hills of eastern Kentucky, Sheppard says “It’s a dream” to play under the lights of Rupp Arena, as is for many “little boys from Kentucky,” as he calls himself. Growing up a Kentucky fan, Sheppard recalls going to many UK games, even going to the SEC tournaments in Nashville over the years with his family. For this decision, it was something he couldn’t pass on. 

“A lot of kids look at the University of Kentucky and they’re like, ‘Man, I want this opportunity,’ and not a lot of people get that chance. Having this opportunity meant a lot to me, and it was just something that was hard to pass up,” Sheppard. 

What was the moment Sheppard knew 100 percent where he wanted to be? It all happened on a trip to Lexington. 

“We went up for a couple practices, and it was once we went to Big Blue Madness,” Sheppard said. “I got to be there the whole day with the team—that was sweet. Just seeing how the fans are, they are the best fans in the world. Just seeing them in action was special.”

One aspect that stood out to Sheppard in his time with the team was seeing the players interact with each other. 

“A big thing for me is having my teammates like brothers, and that’s what they are to each other,” Sheppard said. “They’re always talking and encouraging each other, and of course they joke around with each other. When they get on the court it gets serious, they might get into it a little bit, but when they get to the locker room they’re laughing and having fun with each other.”

Sheppard said his decision was made in the car with his dad, Jeff. 

“I was on a road trip with Dad, I talked to him for an hour about everything, just how I was feeling, that was a special conversation. At that moment, I was like, ‘You know what dad? This is what I want.” 

According to Sheppard, his Dad didn’t have much to say after telling his decision, not because he was speechless or needed time to process, but because “I (Reed) wouldn’t shut up for about 45 minutes. After that they called his Mom, Stacey, and “had to tell the story all over again.” 

With so much hype and build-up for a decision of this magnitude, Sheppard says it’s “a relief” to have this announcement made with still two seasons left of high school. 

“Being able to get this done is big for me, because now I can just go and play. I don’t have to be better than what I am, now I can go out and have fun these next two years,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard will have the time to do that now, as the junior from North Laurel High School will lead his squad in hopes of making a trip to Rupp Arena this year for the State Tournament.

Sheppard closed with a statement that, in short, sums up what he’s all about:

“I’m ready to get this season started and go hang out with my buddies.”