From The Sidelines – Sheppard drawing comparisons to some of region’s all-time greats


Chris Jones

North Laurel guard Reed Sheppard drove past Harlan County’s Jonah Swanner in Tuesday’s game. Sheppard leads the state in scoring for the 13-0 Jaguars.

By John Henson, From The Sidelines

During his 18-point, 17-assist performance in Tuesday’s 96-75 win at Harlan County, North Laurel sophomore guard Reed Sheppard showed why he is already being compared to some of the 13th Region’s all-time greats.
Sheppard, the son of former University of Kentucky standouts Jeff Sheppard and Stacey Reed Sheppard, leads the state in scoring at over 33 points per game and is a big reason the 13-0 Jaguars are ranked No. 1 in the state in at least two polls. Scoring, however, doesn’t appear to be Sheppard’s greatest strength on the court as his passing skills made me start to wonder who I’ve seen that is as good on the high school level.
At that point, I remembered who was coaching the game for Harlan County High School and what he accomplished as the point guard for Harlan High School in the mid 1990s. Michael Jones helped lead Harlan to a 13th Region title in 1993 as a junior, earning all-state honors twice while setting a state record for assists that still stands. Jones had 1,352 assists in a career that extended from 1989 to 1994 as he played for his father, Mike, at Jackson County, Todd Central and Harlan. Jones played with some of the state’s top players in that era, including Mr. Basketball Charles Thomas and all-staters Todd Cox and Casey Lester.
So, with all that experience in assists, who better to ask about Sheppard’s ability as a passer?
“He’s as good as I’ve seen, both passing the ball and with his hands on defense,” Jones said. “He sees the floor extremely well, and what I’m most impressed with is he passes left handed just as well as he does right handed. He’s a special player. There’s no doubt about it.”
Sheppard’s ability, and willingness, to pass were on display in the win over Harlan County, continuing a season-long trend, according to coach Nate Valentine.
“We did a nice job of finding openings in their zone, plus Reed is such a good passer,” he said. “He would rather throw to these guys and watch them hit a 3 or a layup.”
With the win over Harlan County, the Jaguars have defeated most of the 13th Region contenders at this point, except for defending champ Knox Central and All “A” Classic winner Harlan. Valentine cautioned, however, that the Jaguars aren’t looking too far ahead.
“We’re trying to do our talking on the court,” he said. “I think we’re pretty good, but after every game we start looking ahead to our next test. So far, we haven’t stubbed our toe, but we have a bunch of young guys. They have been pretty consistent so far, so we’ll just take it one game at a time.”


Michael Jones set the state record for assists while at Harlan in the 1990s. Current North Laurel guard Reed Sheppard could eventually challenge that record.