VAUGHT: Tour needs Sheppard

When University of Kentucky senior basketball players finish their playing careers, many participate in barnstorming tours across the state. It's not only a chance for them to make some well-deserved money, but also a chance to meet and greet the fans who passionately supported them during their careers.

Unfortunately, the barnstorming tours are not always a big success. Remember a few years ago when Keith Bogans and Marquis Estill bailed out on some scheduled appearances? Other times players have either been late to appearances or played in front of sparse crowds because of organizational problems.

But there could be an easy way to solve these problems and make the barnstorming tours better for players and fans. Just put Jeff Sheppard in charge.

The former 1998 Final Four M0P lives in London, Ky., and annually speaks to more than 100 schools giving motivational speeches. He's also learned to appreciate even more just how much UK basketball means to fans across the state because he interacts with those fans almost every day.

Think about the possibilities. Sheppard could work out a schedule where the seniors would appear with him at a school where he's giving one of his motivational talks. When he's finished, the seniors could answer a few questions as their part of the program. That night the players could play a barnstorming game in the same city and have students and their families eager to come watch them play.

It would be a win-win for everyone because Sheppard has contacts across the state. The players likely would have larger crowds to watch them play and that translates into more money. Students would have a chance to see the players they admire and use as role models in a non-basketball setting before coming out to watch them play. And Sheppard could provide the inspirational message all of us need to hear more often.

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