Jevohn Shepherd came into the 2006/2007 season with high expectations. After an up and down freshman campaign in which he saw action in 26 games (including three starts), he was hoping for a more prominent role on this year’s team. Things got off to a good start when his 8.7 minutes per contest from last season increased to 11 minutes per game during the non-conference. While that probably wasn’t as much as he wanted, it was much better than his time allotment would be during Big Ten play.
The sophomore wing’s minutes dipped dramatically in conference play, dropping to a paltry 2.1 minutes per game heading into Tuesday’s road match-up with Ohio State. In half of those games he didn’t get off the bench at all.
Maintaining both focus and an upbeat attitude during a period in which he was receiving so little playing time wasn’t always easy for Shepherd, but he has been able to maintain a positive perspective thanks to help from friends and coaches. “(Kendric Price) has been my backbone,” said Shepherd. “The other guys have been supportive too, but me and Kendric have been coming in to workout together and speaking to each other to keep each other up. Coach Jackson has been pretty helpful too. The relationship we have has been helpful. Really, a lot of other guys have been helpful also. Even Ekpe Udoh, a freshman, has. I’m pretty cool with all of the seniors. It’s been a collective effort.”
Shepherd has had plenty of times to assess his situation in recent weeks and he often leaned on his former high school coach Wayne Dawkins for advice.
“I’ve never been one to blame anybody and he has never been one to blame anybody,” Shepherd said. “We both sat down and looked at it. He said I probably haven’t been aggressive enough. He told me, ‘It’s a high level and you have to judge yourself on production. Take a step back and ask have you been productive.’ Maybe I’ve been lackadaisical at times, but being able to sit out, I can see the things we need.”
What the team needs from Shepherd are his defensive presence on the wing and his finishing ability on the break. That is a far cry from being the offensive focal point he was as a star high school player in Canada, but he has come to realize that part of what makes a successful team is having all of its members filling their particular roles.
“It’s in my game and if that’s what I need to do to help the team, it’s no problem,” Shepherd said. “I can defend run the floor, play hard, bring some toughness.”
That realization has translated into improved practice performance for Shepherd. Even he has noticed the difference.
“I feel I’ve been more aggressive and I’ve been able to get guys into it,” he said. “Just have fun. Playing that way helps us have fun. It makes us have fun.”
As fulfilling as his practice play in recent weeks had been, the carrot of playing time was still what Shepherd was reaching for.
“I just need to keep working hard in practice and things will fall my way I guess,” said Shepherd. “I just take it as a growing experience. Everything happens for a reason.”
All of that hard work was finally rewarded in Tuesday night versus Ohio State. The athletic wing saw his most extensive court action in nine games, scoring one point and grabbing three rebounds in 15 minutes.
Look for Shepherd to continue reap the rewards of his perseverance as the Wolverines
come down the home stretch.