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Greatness?

Posted by kshepp1 on February 4, 2012 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (3)

                                                                           GREATNESS?

                  What makes people say that I am great? After all God said “If a man is to be called Great he must leave an inheritance for his children's children.” Yet greatness is thrown around in the sports arena. Should I be called great because I can shoot, dribble, and past a basketball at a high level? What makes an athlete so powerful that even World leaders bow to their skills? Because I move your imagination, should this be the recipe to settle World wars? What makes us search for Greatness and anoint a total stranger, as the Greatest? What happen to the content of my character, and your character? The character of a father who does what he can to provide for his family. The character a mother who makes time to be with her kids no matter the adversities life presents. The character of coaches who gave their time to see others progress. The character in all of us, when times are tough, we kept on fighting until we overcome all adversities. Never giving up, don't ever give up. What door closes for one, is an opportunity for another. Greatness shows up in the toughest of times, in the deepest of water, the hottest of fire, the highest of pressures. If the water stays calm there is no form of power. But when water is heated, lifted, then one can see the Power and Greatness of water and it's potential. What made me great was not how many shots I made, how many games I won, how many medals I have, how many awards I possess. What made me great were the times when people said I was too small, but I keep on pushing. The times when people said I couldn’t shoot, but I keep on shooting. The days they told me I was weak, but I kept on lifting. The games I played very bad, but I kept on studying, the moments that I failed time and time again, but I kept on trying. Greatness had nothing to do with the end result, but there comes a time in Sports and in Life that the times will get so hard, the game will be so tough, pain will be so difficult to bear. But the ONE who endures, the ONE who search for that inner strength, the ONE who simply believe that someday thay can and they will. Then and only then will you see the true meaning of Greatness. Today, the Virgin Islanders have crisis on our hands, but we will not be deterred and we will fight and the Whole World will see our Strength and our Greatness to succeed. I guess it's true what they say after all, “There is a drop of GREATNESS in EVERYMAN.”

“I have failed time and time again, and that is why, I Succeed.”

Kevin Tigan Sheppard

Meet Kevin Sheppard "President of CBA"

Posted by kshepp1 on January 15, 2012 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (1)

Former Barracuda Sheppard uses all-world experience to coach his former squad By AARON GRAY (Daily News Staff)

Published: January 13, 2012

Complex head coach Kevin Sheppard, left, with his former head coach at the school and current assistant coach, Dean Heywood, along with the Complex Barracudas boys team.

After a nine-year professional career overseas, Kevin Sheppard, right, is the new boys head basketball coach at St. Croix Educational Complex.

Former Barracuda Sheppard uses all-world experience to coach his former squad Kevin Sheppard was just as talented as his college basketball teammates at Jacksonville University. He had the strength, the speed and he could put the ball in the net. But during his freshman year, Sheppard rarely got off the bench. He could have second-guessed what he was doing at the school or questioned his own playing ability. Instead, Sheppard listened to his coach and it shaped his entire basketball career.  "I remember he told me that I was talented but I needed time," Sheppard said. "I wasn't ready yet because I still did not understand the game."  After that, Sheppard became a full-time student of the game. No longer was he obsessed with getting that fast-break dunk or leading his team in scoring. All the little things took precedent, and he gradually improved as an all-around player.

After two All-Conference selections at Jacksonville and a subsequent nine-year professional basketball career, Sheppard is back on St. Croix and he's on a mission."I want to teach our young guys the hard lessons I had to learn when I got to college," said the 32-year-old Sheppard, who is the new coach of the Educational Complex boys varsity basketball team."The main goal is to get these guys to the next level. But once they get there, they have to be prepared, and I will do whatever it takes to see this through."

Sheppard takes over a prep basketball program he came up in. His old high school coach and mentor, Dean Heywood, had been at the helm of Complex for the last 16 years but took a step back last summer and is an assistant on Sheppard's staff.  "Right now, I'm learning from him," said Heywood, who led the Barracudas to numerous St. Croix IAA district crowns and at least two with Sheppard as a player. "Kevin played in college, with the USVI senior men's team and professionally overseas. I never played overseas. He has so much to offer these kids that I've welcomed him with open arms."

Making a difference

Last summer, Sheppard started up an after-school program for St. Croix high school students interested in basketball. It's a branch of the Choices Basketball Association Inc., a non-profit organization Sheppard helped start in 2005, which is committed to sending local athletes to college.

During the last six years, the organization had ties to the St. Croix summer men's basketball league, but the main focus is now on the youth players.

Sheppard started the after-school program with help from the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation, but he said funding ran out in August.

"It's not about which school you attend - it's more about producing young athletes from the V.I. and helping them earn college scholarships," said Sheppard, who is actively seeking sponsorships for the organization. "My initial goal was to create an AAU team and take them to the states so they can get recruited. That's how I was noticed by Jacksonville."

Sheppard said more than 35 kids from almost every private and public school on St. Croix have shown up on a daily basis for the program. Heywood and Central High coach Donald Bough are also on board.

When they are not on the basketball courts, Sheppard has facilitated tutoring programs for the players and introduced them to the NCAA Clearinghouse, which verifies the eligibility of a student-athlete to participate in sanctioned college events.

"We have the talent here, there's no question about that, but our athletes are not exposed to the right people," said Sheppard, who reached out to Virgin Islander Raja Bell, who plays for the Utah Jazz in the NBA, and various other Division-I coaches for support.

Sheppard retired from playing professionally last year - at the tender age of 32 - so he can direct his attention toward grooming younger basketball talent. He wants to prove a few doubters wrong along the way.

"I want to show the people in power that it's about time someone is willing to get into the trenches while passing up millions to make a difference in our community," Sheppard said. "I could continue to play basketball and get paid until my legs fall off, but I'd rather put all my focus into the next generation now."

Playing in the pros

After he spent a year playing in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) with a pro club in North Dakota, Sheppard tried out for an NBA Developmental League squad in Fayetteville, N.C. He was a few years out of college and his pro playing career was just taking shape.

"I made the team but chose to go overseas because it was more lucrative," said Sheppard, who only spoke English at the time. "I went right from college into pro basketball. I've never really had another job besides basketball."

From there, the savvy point guard made stops in Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Poland, Israel, back to Puerto Rico and then a final stint in Iran.

It was during the 2008-09 season with A.S. Shiraz, a professional team in Iran, that Sheppard became the subject of a documentary, "The Iran Job," which is scheduled to be released this summer. His professional relationship with the team's female physical therapist and her friends, how the fans took to a foreign player, and his adjustments to Middle Eastern culture were all addressed in the documentary.

"Iran opened my world to when it comes to people and respect," said Sheppard, who was interviewed by CNN and the Washington Post about the documentary. "Many of our talents here can play there and I believe we have many talents that surpasses many nations … because we don't know what we have, we are not maximizing our talents."

Representing the USVI

Sheppard's run with the U.S. Virgin Islands men's senior basketball team started in 1999 when he was still in college and ran pretty steady until last summer.

Along the way, he helped lead the team to silver medals at the FIBA CBC Championship and the Men's Central American and Caribbean Basketball Championship in 2006. There was another silver medal at the 2008 Centrobasket, but the most memorable performances came as captain of the team during their two FIBA CBC Championship runs, including this past summer in the Bahamas.

Sheppard was one of the team's leading scorers as the USVI topped the Bahamas, 91-89, in the championship and won its first gold medal at the tourney since 2002.

"Before the tournament, I had just got my coaching license and told the team that I was officially retired from playing," said Sheppard, who was born in Antigua but grew up on St. Croix. "At the last minute, I changed my mind and gave them one last go around."

Just before the tourney, the team had only one point guard in Walter Hodge, and he personally called Sheppard asking for help. Over the years, Sheppard was the defensive focus for opposing teams and it took a physical toll on his body. He knew what to expect.

"I'm not that old but my body has taken a beating," he said. "I want to focus on the next generation now so they don't have to call on the old man again."

Leading by example

Since Sheppard has been back at Complex as a full-time coach - he used to make quick visits to practices in between trips abroad - Heywood said he's noticed an elevated interest and desire from the Barracudas.

"The younger guys always get inspired when the older guys come back," said Heywood, whose team went undefeated in regular-season play last year. "With Kevin, it was always a little different. They always used to ask when he would be coming back. Since this season has started up, I feel like they're playing at a different level."

Sheppard's official coaching debut took place when Complex competed in the 2011 Puerto Rico Hoops Championship in Mayaguez from Dec. 19 to 22.

When the team came back from Puerto Rico, Sheppard made sure the team practiced regularly through the school's holiday break and Crucian Christmas Festival. Sometimes, he had to take the court himself.

"My youthfulness helps me in teaching," said Sheppard, who passed on professional invitations to play in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this year. "I know they are listening. They love to hear stories about me playing against Kobe or LeBron. But I think they learn the most when I get out there on the court and show them how it's done."

The IAA varsity season is supposed to start next week, so the team has not wasted any time in preparation. At the same time, Sheppard said he is not hung up on winning titles. It all goes back to what his college coach told him during his freshman year.

"The kids will call and text me because they see college players on TV and then they realize what I was trying to tell them in practice that night," Sheppard said. "They now know that it's not all about dunks and layups. It's been a big improvement from a few months ago. They're starting to understand the game."

- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email agray@dailynews.vi.

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