Charlotte men's basketball player Jordan Shepherd is fulfilling a big role this year and has already become a household name for the 49ers.
Shepherd how shown leadership on and off the court this year.
2020 was hard for all athletes across the country, and a young Charlotte team needs a leader. They needed someone who could keep them all disciplined and focused on the team's goals.
Growing up, Shepherd always knew he loved the game of basketball. He played games with his dad and also watched his dad intently while he played.
"I come from a family of athletes, and my dad would take me to the courts with him, and I would watch him play, so I think that is where my love started for the game...my dad is my hero," said Shepard.
Shepherd played high school basketball at Asheville Christian Academy, wherein his senior year, he averaged 19.2 points per game along with 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. He went on to win the Carolina's Athletic Association player of the year honors and All-State honors.
247sports had Shepherd ranked as the 313 best players in the country, 61st point guard and 14th in North Carolina. Shepherd put these rankings in perspective and used them to drive him to be better.
"Early on, I looked at them (the player rankings) a lot, but as I got older, towards my junior and senior year, I tried not to pay attention to them as much because sometimes they can be a little wrong," said Shepherd.
Shepard embodies that it isn't about what others think of your ability; your determination ensures what you can become.
Shepherd committed to The University of Oklahoma in 2016, where he played for Coach Lon Kruger. Shepherd saw action in all 59 games he played with the Sooners, getting starts in four of those games.
In the 2017-18 season, the team got up to number four in the nation and made the NCAA tournament. As a part of the 2017 recruiting class for the Sooners, they brought in point guard Trae Young, who is now a member of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA.
"Playing with Trae was a great experience that I don't take for granted at all," said Shepherd. "Being older than him, I was teaching him the ways of school and the ways of life a little bit. We learned a lot from each other."
Shepherd took the lessons he learned from this experience and applied them to how he plays now as the leader of the 49ers.
After Shepherd served a redshirt season due to the NCAA's transfer protocols, he started in all 27 games for the 49ers in the 2019-20 season. As a redshirt junior, he took the younger guys under his wing and assisted them in their early days as college players.
One of these players is now the leading scorer for the team, Jahmir Young. Under Shepherd's leadership, the sophomore guard has become one of the best talents in Conference USA (C-USA).
"I tried to bring my experiences with me and share my stories. Jahmir (Young) is playing at an extremely high level, and I try to keep pushing and keep challenging him to compete, and that is something I learned at Oklahoma," said Shepherd.
Being from Asheville, NC, which is only two hours away from Charlotte, Shepherd felt that being closer to home was a better fit for him than being over 1,000 miles away in Norman, Okla.
"Being closer to home was one of my top priorities," said Shepherd. "I knew Coach Sanchez was coming in and we wanted to build it from scratch together."
Head Coach Ron Sanchez challenges each of his players every day, which is something to which Shepherd agrees.
"What he brings is his unique experience of the struggles of being a college freshman and sophomore," said Sanchez of Shepherd. "I think that's where his leadership comes into play."
As he has grown into the player and leader he is today, Shepherd hasn't always seen great leadership in programs he has played for in the past, and he feels that coach Sanchez brings that component each day.
"He challenges me to lead and to be better. I can learn as I go, how to become a better leader and share my experiences with the younger guys," said Shepherd.
Leading during a pandemic
COVID-19 has plagued the sports world and has changed sports.
It has canceled entire seasons for spring athletes and canceled most conference basketball tournaments, including the C-USA tournament in which Charlotte had the four seed.
Each move that an athlete makes could make or break them being able to play each week.
It has been challenging, but Shepherd has focused on being an example to his team.
"It is my senior year, so it would be easy to be selfish, but for the betterment of the team, I set my own goals aside so the team can have success," said Shepherd.
The sports world doesn't see this kind of selflessness all the time. Saying with authority that he sets his own goals aside for the team's betterment says a lot about his character. It is a leadership trait that is irreplaceable.
"There is a cost to winning," added Shepherd.
Shepherd's discipline and being an ongoing "student of the game" has helped him succeed on the court as the guard has averaged 34.1 minutes a game along with 11.4 points.