In one of the most exciting and rejuvenating wins in recent memory, unheralded senior swingman Jevohn Shepherd showed the Michigan faithful in the voctory over Duke why his coaches and teammates have looked to him for leadership and poise.
Getting the nod as a starter for the first time this season, "Shep" played 32 minutes adding intensity on the boards and contributing significantly on the defensive end of the court. This was evidenced by Duke's deadly 3-point arsenal being held to just 7-of-33 shooting from behind the arc.
Shepherd's stat line was modest with just three points, four rebounds, one steal and a blocked shot. However his presence on the court was noticeable, as he got to the basket multiple times and twice causing the Blue Devils to send him to the foul line. Due to his ability as a slasher, he often required one of Duke's best defenders to pay close attention to him. That helped create open looks for the days more prolific scorers.
Just six games away from becoming the 54th Wolverine in the school's history to play 100 career games, Shepherd had previously only played ten 20+ minute games, with just one of those games over 30 minutes. However the revitalized senior relishes his opportunity to contribute now that he is more familiar with Coach Beilein's system.
"I've had a lot of experience here so far and we haven't necessarily won, just being able to go out there and play and try to get a win is most important."
"Some players are like this, especially when they don't get a lot of playing time… the ball is like a grenade, Beilein explained. "They've got to do something with it. Just wait, pick your spots and use your athleticism in spots. He is being a little bit more selective instead of maybe just taking his head down and making a play. It was great to see him hit that early three, because we needed it."
Shepherd's contributions may not have been very visible on the stat sheet, but they were definitely recognized by his coaches and teammates as being among the keys to their winning effort. Whether he was flying through the air to gather a rebound or diving to the floor in an effort to save a ball from going out of bounds, Shep's "anything for the team" attitude was contagious and inspiring.
"Jevohn has been a good leader for all of us underclassmen" freshman shooting sensation Zack Novak said when asked of Shep's influence on the team. "From day one, he's been a great teammate. It really helps team chemistry when seniors and upperclassmen welcome in the younger players without any problems. Everyone on the team gets along and that makes it easier to get where we want to go."
One of Shepherd's most visible shows of leadership came in the Savannah St. comeback thriller. It could have worked out painfully different had Toronto native not give sage advice to Novak.
"Zack missed that dunk, but he could have missed a layup," Shepherd said regarding the missed slam attempt at the end of regulation. "[Jevohn said to Zack] we have another five minutes to play basketball. Just keep your head forward, get all the guys together."
This attitude was reaffirmed to his coach and teammates this offseason when Jevohn changed his jersey number from 15 to 22 in an effort to display his understanding and commitment to his new role as a leader. With a new found sense of responsibility and respect, it looks as though Jevohn's senior campaign will be his greatest opportunity to play the influential role in Michigan's success that both he and the fans want him to be.