University of Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard Has More Than Athleticism in His DNA
The Big Blue Nation of University of Kentucky (UK) basketball fans couldn’t be more enthusiastic about freshman guard, Reed Sheppard.
Averaging almost 13 points per game and draining over half of his 3-point attempts, Sheppard changes not only the tempo of the game but often the outcome. This talent has won him national recognition and his second SEC Freshman of the Week award on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023.
Sheppard’s parents, Jeff Sheppard and Stacey (Reed) Sheppard, are both UK basketball legends in their own right. Jeff played on two national championship teams and was named the 1998 NCAA tournament MVP while at UK, and Stacey ranks in several top 10 categories.
Reed says he’s his mama’s boy and the way he handles a basketball is often compared to hers.
Jeff says numbers don’t lie, and his wife was actually the better player.
“She scored more points than me,” he says. “She had more assists than me, had more rebounds than me, more steals than me, and she made shots at a higher percentage than me.”
Reed recently dropped a UK shirt online for his fans that rightly says, “It’s in my blood.”
However, Rodney Goodlett, pastor of Faith Assembly of God, the Sheppard’s home church in London, Kentucky, says that isn’t all that was passed down to Reed in his DNA.
“The DNA is not for just basketball, but also to be generous,” Goodlett says. “Reed is obviously getting a lot of publicity because of what he’s doing on the courts. He’s a Kentucky kid playing for Kentucky which is incredible. The bigger portion is not just about his accolades for what he’s doing on the courts, but his generosity and his heart to give to people and be able to help people.”
Donating $1,000 to Speed the Light, Reed was named a Speed the Light champion at this year's Kentucky State Youth Convention. Goodlett started STL Champions when he served as district youth minister for the Kentucky Network.
“The basketball is well documented, but it’s in Reed’s blood to be generous as well,” Goodlett says.
The impact of his parents and church is evident even on the court when Reed’s unselfishness is seen in the way he plays, always happy to help with an assist and never feeling the need to showboat. Such evidence is seen by his 11 assists in a recent game against rival Louisville Cardinals which, according to UK’s news source, is more than any player from the school during the series.
Jeff Sheppard agrees with his pastor and says much of his son’s giving spirit, just like his talent on the court, comes from his mother.
Growing up in London, Jeff says that both Reed and his older sister, Madison, continually saw their mother working to give back to those in their community who were less fortunate.
“Reed and Madison both had a phenomenal example of a mom who just loved the Lord and loved and served her community, and she still does,” Jeff says. “My wife doesn’t have to say, ‘Work hard, love people, and serve your community.’ She just lives it by working hard, loving people, and serving her community every single day.”
Continuing about the example his wife set for their children, Jeff says, “It wasn’t a onetime event or speech. Stacey just lived a life of giving in front of our kids, and they don’t know anything else. For Reed to have a heart to give and a heart for missions, a heart to work hard, and share and be selfless in sports and outside of sports, all he’s doing is following his mama’s footsteps.”
His parents’ generosity has made a lasting impression as Sheppard looks forward to the opportunity to use his talent to give back and inspire others.
“I enjoy doing things to help my community and serve the people in Kentucky,” he says. “I’m just a little boy from Kentucky, and God has given me the gift of sports and athleticism. But everyone has been given a gift. I just want to encourage others to find that gift, be thankful for that gift, and develop that gift.”
Jeff says family and community are all his children ever knew as they grew up, and he is grateful to his Assembly of God church and others for lavishing his children with love and grace.
“It’s truly the story of a community and church raising children in the awe of the Lord. [It’s] Him protecting them and showing His favor to them and opening up doors for them,” Jeff says. “So many teachers and pastors, Sunday School teachers, and members of the community, and faithful members of our church have rallied around our children and poured into them. They have taught them, prayed for them, laughed with them, and cried with them.”
Sheppard is very thankful for the people God used in his life as he grew up.
“My whole life I have been raised in church at Faith Assembly of God,” he says. “All of the people at church have loved me and helped raise me the right way. I got baptized at age 13, and I’m so thankful for God’s hand on my life.”
Jeff agrees, “It’s obvious God’s hand is on him, not because his 3-pointers go in, but because of the opportunities that God is allowing us; to simply live and be a light to those around us and give to those all around the world. It is just a beautiful thing. We’re just overwhelmed with appreciation.”