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Jan. 26, 2000

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – From 1994-1999, Scott Shepherd spent five seasons as head post-graduate basketball coach at Hargrave Military Academy. While there, Shepherd helped prepare his players to meet the rigorous demands of basketball at the collegiate level. In all, 50 players left his program to play at a Division I program, including current UVa player Cade Lemcke. Yet, at the beginning of last summer, Shepherd quickly went from teacher to student when he became an assistant basketball coach at Virginia. After five years of helping players reach college basketball’s toughest division, he now found himself trying to make the same transition. “It has been a big adjustment since June getting accustomed to the different things that happen in a major college program,” said Shepherd. “The film preparation, the game preparation, and the travel are all part of the whole entity. That is a big adjustment from prep school.”

Though he joined the Cavalier coaching staff in June, the true test did not come until a few weeks prior to Virginia’s first regular-season game. The preseason workouts and the in-season practices incorporated the same basic techniques he used while at Hargrave, but helping prepare the Cavaliers for their first game proved the biggest challenge. “Getting ready for a game–the game breakdown and the individual workouts leading up to the game, I think that was the biggest surprise to me,” said Shepherd. “So much game preparation goes into every game, not just conference games.”

While at Hargrave, Shepherd made sure his team always came ready to play. During his five seasons as head coach, he compiled an overall record of 127-18, including a 27-3 record during his final year. No stranger to success, he looked forward to continuing his winning ways as a member of Gillen’s staff. Shepherd came to Virginia with an excellent understanding of Gillen’s fast-paced method of play, since his teams at Hargrave also utilized a very similar up-tempo, pressing style. Attracted to the energy surrounding Gillen and his coaching philosophies, he was eager to be a part of the Virginia family. “I expected things to be very exciting,” said Shepherd. “I coached the same brand of basketball at Hargrave, so I was very happy about that. I believe in Coach Gillen, because he has been a winner everywhere he has gone. I was just excited to be hired and to be a part of this program.”

Now approaching the halfway mark of his first basketball season under Gillen, Shepherd continues to draw from lessons learned during his own experience as a head coach. As an assistant coach, he still maintains many responsibilities similar to those he held as head coach at Hargrave. Gillen often looks to his assistant coaches for their input concerning important game decisions, and Shepherd knows his previous coaching endeavor is an asset. “As a head coach, I got to make a lot of my own decisions, and I think that experience really helps me being an assistant for Coach Gillen. He lets me coach and listens to my suggestions,” said Shepherd. “As an integral part of game management, he listens to his assistants to see what they have to offer. I really think it helps having had some experience at making game-time decisions.”

Shepherd began his coaching career in 1991, serving as an assistant coach for two seasons at Ferrum College. In 1993, he joined Hargrave’s coaching staff and acted as an assistant coach for one year before being named the head coach. He has spent his entire coaching career in the Commonwealth of Virginia. During that time, Shepherd has firmly established himself within the state’s coaching circles. Originally from Elkins, West Virginia, he remains extremely familiar with the Southeast and hopes this will ultimately help the program grow. “Being from the South and knowing some of the coaches from Virginia, I hope to be able to help with recruiting some,” said Shepherd. “Because most of the coaching staff is from the North, being from a different part of the country allows me to add a different perspective on things.”

Aside from his well established background and comprehensive knowledge of basketball’s x’s and o’s, Shepherd provides a very interactive and hands-on coaching style to the Virginia program. Not long ago, he finished a stellar basketball career at Robert Morris College, which included two trips to the NCAA Tournament. At age 33, he can still hit a jump shot from almost anywhere on the floor, and he often finds himself going toe-to-toe with the players during workouts and drills. He constantly works with the players during practice and helps them with almost any facet of the game. Often like another teammate, Shepherd becomes very involved in practice, motivating the players through his own hard work. In the end, working up a sweat not only helps the team members improve, it also serves to create an even stronger family environment. “I really enjoy being able to get on the court with them, and interact with the players by playing and doing drills. I really think that helps in your player-coach relations when you are able to get out there and do the drills with them,” said Shepherd. “Being able to work with them individually and spending a lot of time with them on the court really helps my relationship with the players.”

As the only assistant coach unable to make recruiting trips (due to NCAA regulations), Shepherd represents the one member of the coaching staff always here on a day-to-day basis. Often times, when players seeks extra practice or an additional workout, they look for Coach Shepherd to lend a helping hand. Before practice, after practice, and even on off days, he can often be found taking extra time to help a player improve his game. “With Coach Herrion, Coach Fuller, and Coach Gillen traveling so much while recruiting, I am the only one that is here every day,” said Shepherd. “I am the only one who can’t leave campus [to recruit], so the players know they can come to me everyday and my door will be open all the time to go work out.”

When Shepherd agreed to become a part of the Virginia program, he knew the challenges that awaited him. He never once thought joining the UVa coaching staff would prove easy and fully understood he would make his own adjustments while still helping the program continue to improve. He joined the Cavaliers when expectations were at a new high, leaving even less time to settle in and little room for error. In essence, joining coach Gillen’s staff meant pressure with a capital “P” for Shepherd, but then again, that is exactly why he took the job. “We have a lot of expectations, and we are going to have to work hard to reach those goals. I think competition brings out the best in people,” said Shepherd. “Having expectations, having a young team, having to put everything together, and to get things going from the beginning—I really enjoy that part of being here.”

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