The 13th Region is loaded with young talent, but leading the pack is North Laurel’s Reed Sheppard.
Sheppard moved up as an eighth-grader during the 2018-2019 season to play for the North Laurel Jaguars, and it took him no time to establish himself as one of the top players in not only the region, but one of the best young talents in the entire state.
In his first season with the Jaguars, Sheppard led the team in scoring, averaging 16 points per game, helping North Laurel reach the regional finals, where they finished as runner-up to Knox Central.
Last season, Sheppard took another big step forward, where he wasn’t just considered a great young athlete, but he quickly became known as the region’s top basketball player, leading the Jaguars with 20.6 points per game and 5.2 rebounds.
As with all great players, Sheppard knows that there is always room for his game to improve. This offseason he has been hitting the gym every day and putting up as many shots as he can, while working on becoming a better shooter from the outside. He said he is also working hard in the weight room and focusing on becoming a better defender.
“I’m just trying to improve my overall game. I’ve really worked at becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter and improving my overall strength,” said Sheppard. “I’m really focusing on becoming a better defender every day in practice.”
Being ranked as the top player in the 13th Region doesn’t matter much to Sheppard. He has received plenty of accolades already in his young career. What is most important to him is being a leader for his Jaguars’ squad.
Last season North Laurel finished as runner-up in the 49th District Tournament, and was bounced from the playoffs in the first round, in a 66-64 loss to eventual champion Knox Central. The Jaguars will return several key players from last year’s squad, highlighted by Sheppard, and will look to be among the region’s best teams, once again.
Sheppard knows that in order for his team to succeed and compete for a regional title, he will have to be the best player that he can be. He wants to be the type of leader that gets the most out of his teammates while setting the example.
“I am working every day to become a better leader. Being a year older, I’m getting comfortable being more vocal,” said Sheppard. “I just try to stay positive and help our team be the best we can be.”
Ultimately, the final judgment on a good season is a chance to win a 13th Region title. The Jaguars were close during Sheppard’s first season with the squad in 2018, finishing as runner-up. In each of the last two seasons, they have lost to Knox Central, who is now the two-time defending regional champions.
This year, the 13th Region has a solid lineup of teams at the top, and North Laurel is one of them. In their district, they will have to take on a tough Clay County team, and they’ll face the likes of South Laurel, Corbin, Knox Central, and Harlan County along the way.
Sheppard knows that it is not easy to win a title. He won a district championship as an eighth-grader, but lost to Clay County last season. He said he thinks the region is loaded with good teams, but he likes the team that North Laurel has coming back in 2020.
“There are several good teams in the 13th Region. We have a solid core back from last year and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates,” said Sheppard. “We just keep focusing on ‘one day at a time’ because we never know what to expect with the pandemic.”
While the concern over completing a full season because of the pandemic is looming over the entire state of Kentucky High School basketball players, Sheppard said he has tried to keep working on his game and with his teammates, and not focusing on negatives. He and his team are focused on getting better and preparing to compete at a high level.
“I’m really just focusing on getting better each day and preparing myself for the upcoming season,” said Sheppard. “I have been working hard since the end of last season and I’m just hopeful we get a chance to compete this season.”