LOUISVILLE, Ky. — All of them needed an image with Jeff Sheppard.
Because the Most Excellent Participant of the 1998 NCAA match shuffled towards the KFC YUM! Heart for his alma mater’s matchup at Louisville, dozens of Kentucky followers pulled him apart and held up their telephones.
“Hey, take a look at that, son!” one father instructed his little one after he snapped a selfie. “You simply took an image with Reed Sheppard‘s dad!”
Jeff is without doubt one of the program’s hottest former gamers. However his son is now the largest star of Kentucky basketball’s royal household — which additionally contains his mom, former Kentucky ladies’s basketball star Stacey Reed Sheppard, who’s No. 2 in profession steals (309) for the Wildcats and a 1994 All-SEC first-teamer.
When your father is a two-time nationwide champion and your mom is without doubt one of the biggest ladies’s gamers of all time, it’s not straightforward to jot down your individual story. This season, nonetheless, Sheppard has discovered a option to do exactly that.
Regardless of coming off the bench, Sheppard’s effectivity and manufacturing — 12.6 factors, 4.5 assists and a pair of.5 steals per sport, 54.1% capturing from the 3-point line — have made him key to Kentucky’s goal to achieve the Closing 4 for the primary time since 2015. He has additionally risen to turn out to be a projected first-round choose within the NBA draft, ought to he resolve to show professional.
It wasn’t at all times that approach. Early in his highschool profession, Sheppard did not earn a nationwide rating or widespread reward. There have been no ensures he’d ever mature right into a participant worthy of a scholarship from a blue-chip college. By the point he was a junior in highschool, nonetheless, Sheppard had grown right into a nationally ranked recruit with affords from colleges together with Arizona State and Indiana. However when Kentucky known as and supplied him a scholarship, he knew his future was with the Wildcats. His dad and mom had hoped he’d choose their alma mater, however watched from a distance as a result of they did not wish to affect his last selection.
“There’s nothing higher than to be Reed’s dad proper now, so it has been plenty of enjoyable,” stated Jeff Sheppard, who received nationwide titles at Kentucky in 1996 and 1998. “We simply needed him to undergo his course of and decide that was greatest for him. To say we did not need this to occur can be a lie. We did not know. However to see all of it play out proper now has been very particular.”
The Sheppards’ story is not singular. And put together to really feel outdated.
These Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s faculty basketball stars you grew up watching and admired? Lots of their kids — together with Reed’s teammate D.J. Wagner, the son of former Memphis star Dajuan Wagner — are Division I standouts now. The burden of the dad and mom’ accomplishments can enhance the stress on their kids who play the sport. But, with their dad and mom’ assist, the offspring have managed to jot down their very own scripts.
“There was extra stress earlier in my highschool profession with, ‘Is he going to be ok to go to Kentucky?'” Reed Sheppard stated. “That was extra stress than simply going out right here and enjoying and enjoying free and having enjoyable with my teammates on the college I dreamed of enjoying at.”
For Jameer Nelson Jr., a visit to work along with his dad at all times began with an omelet.
His father, Jameer Nelson Sr., performed for the Orlando Magic (2004-2014) following a standout profession at Saint Joseph’s, the place he received the 2004 Wood Award and led his workforce to a 30-2 file in 2003-04.
Every time Nelson Jr. visited the Magic’s facility along with his father, he’d ask the workforce’s chef for his favourite meal, after which he would run to the courtroom and shoot layups along with his dad and his dad’s NBA teammates.
“I used to be younger and I used to be spoiled,” stated Nelson, who’s averaging 11.1 PPG and three.4 APG for TCU this season after starring at George Washington and Delaware. “It was simply actually common for my dad to take me with him to work, identical to any dad would.”
However when Nelson started pursuing a profession in basketball, it wasn’t a pure match. He had his father’s identify however not his expertise.
“At first it was a little bit annoying as a result of I wasn’t that good,” Nelson stated. “It was form of overwhelming.”
Thankfully, he by no means believed he needed to be like his father as his love for the sport blossomed. Plus, his dad instructed him he needed to comply with just one rule: have enjoyable.
“My mother ready me and instructed me, ‘You are at all times going to have his identify,'” Nelson stated of the stress to reside as much as his dad’s legacy. “I really feel like I am at all times going to be in comparison with my dad. Nevertheless it’s good to have somebody like that in my nook.”
Nelson’s teammate Chuck O’Bannon Jr. remembers the framed journal covers that includes his father, Charles O’Bannon, and his uncle Ed O’Bannon, each former UCLA stars who received a nationwide title in 1995, everywhere in the partitions of his grandmother’s home. He additionally remembers going to video games with them and noticing the best way folks handled them with respect and admiration.
He felt like he was well-known too when he was with them, however as soon as he joined the AAU circuit he heard the chatter about how a lot he wasn’t like them. His father needed to remind him he needed to comply with his personal path.
“He taught me to remain levelheaded and to by no means get too excessive or too low,” stated O’Bannon, who’s averaging 6.4 PPG for the Horned Frogs.
Chuck O’Bannon Jr. will get the and-1 to fall
Chuck O’Bannon Jr. will get the and-1 to fall
New Mexico‘s Jamal Mashburn Jr. was only a toddler when his father — Jamal Mashburn Sr., a former faculty basketball All-American at Kentucky and the fourth choose within the 1993 NBA draft — performed in his first and solely NBA All-Star Sport in 2003. It was additionally Michael Jordan’s last All-Star Sport.
From the photographs taken that day, he is aware of he met Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and different future Basketball Corridor of Famers. However he actually solely remembers towering over the room when he met Yao Ming.
“I do not keep in mind something moreover assembly Yao Ming,” stated Mashburn, who’s averaging 15.9 PPG this season for the Lobos. “He stood out to me. He is a really massive human being and he picked me up.”
These reminiscences had been the norm in his childhood and so they made him the favored child on the playground. However when his love for hoops started to develop, his father instructed him to develop a ability set that may work for him as a substitute of attempting to imitate his dad. It was sound recommendation Mashburn nonetheless follows.
“I at all times needed to make a reputation for myself,” he stated. “I knew I simply could not take heed to the noise. My father is in my nook, he is my mentor. Nevertheless it was onerous in highschool and AAU basketball. It was onerous to not take heed to comparisons. However my dad and mom raised me to dam that out.”
He and his father are completely different in a large number of the way. Mashburn is 6-foot-2, not 6-8 like his father, for one. His dad used his dimension to get into the lane and rating on post-ups or by way of his robust midrange sport. Mashburn makes use of his velocity to create house to elude defenders and room to attain. Nonetheless, they share one trait on the courtroom.
“We each shoot the ball nicely,” Mashburn stated. “We’re a household of bucket-getters.”
D.J. Wagner and his father have qualities in widespread, too.
D.J. was at one level the No. 1 recruit in America within the 2023 class. Each Louisville, which employed his grandfather Milt Wagner as an assistant coach, and Kentucky pursued him earlier than he signed with the Wildcats.
Dajuan too had been recruited by Louisville, Kentucky and different early 2000s powerhouses following a stellar prep profession, which included a 100-point outing. He finally signed to play for John Calipari, who was then at Memphis. Like his son, Dajuan was a McDonald’s All-American with NBA goals when he reached campus. His lone collegiate season ended with a visit to the NIT in 2002 earlier than he entered the NBA draft and have become a first-round choose.
D.J. began the 2023-24 marketing campaign amid buzz that he may crack the NBA draft lottery, identical to his father had performed greater than 20 years in the past. And he has loved each reward and scrutiny via a freshman yr with rising pains. His father’s assist has been essential via the obstacles.
“My dad confirmed me every thing I do know concerning the sport, the ins and outs of the sport,” he stated. “He is nonetheless educating me. He calls me daily. Even the ups and downs, he ready me for that. He instructed me, ‘It will not at all times be straightforward.'”
Reeves, Wildcats leap to massive lead in win vs. Louisville
Antonio Reeves scores 30 factors whereas Tre Mitchell and Reed Sheppard put up double-doubles to guide No. 9 Kentucky to victory over the Cardinals 95-76.
The requests for selfies and conversations continued when Jeff and Stacey lastly stepped into the sector.
However Reed Sheppard’s dad and mom have a rule. As soon as the sport begins, they do not like to speak to anybody. They’re targeted on the courtroom.
“It is nerve-wracking,” Stacey stated. “I at all times warn the particular person subsequent to me that I am enjoying protection with my legs. I inform them, ‘I’ll be kneeing you, as a result of I am enjoying protection.’ Making an attempt to assist them out. Nevertheless it’s enjoyable. We’re having a blast.”
Reed Sheppard at all times dreamed of being a star at Kentucky.
After he grew to become a highschool star within the state, nonetheless, critics puzzled if he had the expertise to play for the Wildcats. He did not obtain a scholarship provide from Calipari — who praised Sheppard’s “aggressive power” after he signed — till the summer season earlier than his junior yr. And nonetheless, many puzzled if Sheppard, who was initially thirty eighth in ESPN’s 2023 recruiting rankings, would crack the rotation of a roster stuffed with five-star prospects. At 6-2, he lacked the explosive sport that had despatched so lots of Calipari’s former freshmen to the NBA.
However his dad and mom had taught him nicely. Each his father and mom molded components of his sport, tangible and intangible, which have helped make Sheppard an All-American candidate this season and a legit NBA prospect.
“It was a mixture of each,” Sheppard stated. “Me and my dad have at all times labored out collectively. We nonetheless go to the health club. I will name him if one thing feels off and we’ll are available and we’ll shoot for half-hour and return to the fundamentals.
“Mother, we did not go to the health club as a lot however she was at all times wanting me to play onerous. She’d say, ‘By no means let anybody outwork you while you’re on the ground. In the event you’re enjoying, you are going to play as onerous as you may.'”
Each time he touched the ball within the eventual win towards the Cardinals that night time, the gang — stuffed with Kentucky followers — screamed “Reeeeeeddddd!!!” A cry you may hear at many Kentucky video games.
He is not solely the workforce’s hottest participant, however he has additionally made the case that he is one in all its greatest, too. He recorded 21 factors (5-for-9 from the 3-point line), 9 rebounds and three steals in a win over Miami. In simply 25 minutes of motion, he completed with 11 factors, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in a win over North Carolina. Per EvanMiya.com’s BPR metric, which measures a participant’s total affect on his workforce when he is on the courtroom, Sheppard is the sixth-most beneficial participant in America. He is ranked behind solely Zach Edey, Jamal Shead, Donovan Clingan, Braden Smith and Kyle Filipowski.
Calipari’s Kentucky groups have not made greater than 37% of their 3-point makes an attempt in a season for the reason that nationwide championship-winning 2011-12 marketing campaign. This season’s group entered Thursday with a 39.8% clip from past the arc. Per the numbers, Sheppard is the best shooter Calipari has ever coached at Kentucky. His 3-point capturing is a important part of Kentucky’s improved capturing (the Wildcats shot simply 34.7% from 3 final season).
For Calipari, including Sheppard and Wagner to the roster will not be solely an extension of their households’ basketball legacies, it has additionally made Kentucky a legitimate nationwide title contender.
“They have been terrific,” Calipari stated. “I feel they each have a will to win. I feel they each have some canine in them. … The sport [D.J.] did not play [Dec. 2 against UNC Wilmington], we misplaced. That tells you one thing. He wills you to win. His dad was the identical approach and I think about his grandfather was the identical approach. It is in his DNA. And Reed simply, no matter you ask him to do, he simply performs basketball. And he does not care who scores.”
On that courtroom in Louisville, it was clear that Reed Sheppard had — early in his collegiate profession — made a reputation for himself.
“I look as much as mother and pa quite a bit,” he stated. “They had been each actually, actually good gamers. After I was youthful, I used to be Jeff and Stacey’s son. That was actually cool to me as a result of I knew how good they had been and I knew how a lot folks seemed as much as them every time we went locations. However now, carving my very own path and making my very own waves is absolutely cool for me.”