Stories of Jevohn Shepherd's aerial domination of the competition around the greater Toronto area has been commonplace for the last few years. The 6-5 200-lb wing player has toyed with opponents at times, throwing up ridiculous stats and unbelievable dunks in the process. Even so, one common criticism had been that he did not always play up to the level of his excellent ability. When he committed to Michigan, the target on his back grew larger, and both his critics and opponents were gunning for him. Now as he nears the conclusion of his high school career, he has practically silenced all of the doubters. His 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, and three blocks per game have West Hill in position to pull down the provincial crown when the playoffs begin on March 7th.
West Hill Coach Wayne Dawkins found much of the criticism to be unfounded, but feels that Shepherd has handled it extremely well. "It started with a lot of expectations," Dawkins said. "He had been playing really well, but he was starting to get that Vince Carter label. 'He is a great player, but his team can't win.' That was sort of unfair because we had four or five transfers, including Nathan Skinner who just verbally committed to Iowa. The whole chemistry of our team was a mess. The natural progression was supposed to be Jevohn is the guy, and everyone else fall into place. But we had an influx of some kids that are good players, but they are senior kids that played for a number of years elsewhere. They had to come in and try to conform to our way of doing things and buy into our philosophy. It just took them time. So he kind of got an unfair knock. But now, he is just answering it. He is showing people now that it is not a Vince Carter type of situation."
At one point this season Coach Dawkins had to light a fire under his star protégé. West Hill traveled stateside to the Arby's Classic in Tennessee prior to the New Year. Early in the competition Shepherd struggled, scoring 34 points over two games as the Warriors to a 1-1 start. His undistinguished play drew the ire of his coach because he knew Jevohn was capable of so much more.
"Charles [Ramsey] said it best," Dawkins said of his former coach and current Michigan assistant. "The kid just doesn't know how good he is. Sometimes we go into these situations and he doesn't realize that people can see his talent. He can't hide. He can't warm up into games because our team is not good enough to have him take the time to sort of get himself into things. There are a lot of eyes on him. He carries that 'committed to Michigan' label as a top player. He can't afford to not seize the moment and assert himself. We have a great relationship, but I said some pretty harsh things to him. I told him that he was wasting Michigan's scholarship and that he was embarrassing us. I went at him pretty hard. I was just trying to show him that there is no time for that. He is not a lazy kid and is not a lackadaisical kid, but I think he was just afraid to explode. You can see all of that talent bursting inside of him. It is almost like there is a little insecurity there. Almost like he is afraid to make a mistake. Living in that sort of world made him sort of have to warm up into a situation."
The tough message resonated with Shepherd and his play improved as a result. He erupted for 32 and 28 points over the next two games, helping the Warriors to a 3-1 record overall and a 6th place finish in the tournament. He also dazzled fans with his aerial antics in a dunk competition. (For the full recap, click here). His performances drew so much attention that the local paper ran four separate stories on him. That continued a string of impressive showings outside of the confines of Canada that started late last summer in Vegas.
While the coach may have had to "bring it out" of Jevohn down in Tennessee, that has not been indicative of what has taken place the majority of the season. Shepherd has done a much better job this year of bringing it out of himself. "His leadership, assertiveness, and aggressiveness has totally turned around," Dawkins said. "He has become a monster on the boards. George Raveling (former Iowa and USC coach and the current director of Nike Worldwide Camps) came up for a game against the second best team in our region. He didn't even stay for the whole thing, but he saw Jevohn go for 44 points and 10 about dunks. Every way possible…lobs tip-dunks...everything! One of the first plays of the game was him bumping a guy off, going straight up and dunking. So the area with him that we are very excited about is in his leadership and his assertiveness. He is not blending in and scoring 25. He is asserting himself and scoring whatever the team needs. It could be 10, 30, or 40…he does it, AND he getting the rebounds. He is getting it done. His leadership has been phenomenal."
Be on the lookout tomorrow for part two of our Shepherd update, as Coach
Dawkins talks about how Jevohn compares to the other top players in Canada and
the pitfalls that his star pupil will have to avoid as he prepares to head for