Updated: Sep 20
Let the game do the talking.
That’s the simple motto of Belmont basketball junior Ben Sheppard, who has ascended to become one of the top players in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I’m not a big rah-rah type guy. I just let my humbleness and my game speak for themselves,” said Sheppard, who is tied as the team’s leading scorer in the 2021-22 season.
Modeling his game after several of the more well-known 3-and-D players in the NBA, including Jaylen Brown, Caris LeVert and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the shy, 6-foot-6 guard finds inspiration in how others play ball.
Despite shaping his game after the NBA’s more productive wings, Sheppard’s all-time favorite player is savvy veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, a 2008 Boston Celtics champion.
“I don’t really play like him, but he was always someone I looked up to growing up since my family is from Boston,” he said.
An Atlanta native himself, Sheppard averaged 10.5 points his sophomore season with his mind set on improving every aspect of his game in his junior year.
“This season, I just came in with extreme confidence in hopes of making a bigger jump than I did last year,” he said.
And it seems like confidence was key. Sheppard didn’t take long making his presence known among the Bruins, scoring 25 points in the season opener versus Ohio University.
Sheppard’s next impressive feat came over Thanksgiving break, when the Bruins played Iona University in their second game of the ESPN Events Invitational.
Banking 25 points and six rebounds, Sheppard helped secure his team a spot in the championship game, and he received high praise from legendary commentator Dick Vitale.
Despite prominent performances early in the season, Sheppard never forces the issue when it comes to taking shots.
“If I see an opening and I see a good shot, feet on the line and my hands are ready, I’m gonna shoot,” he said. “I’m never necessarily looking for my shot, but if it comes to me then I’m gonna take it,” Sheppard said.
Connecting on nearly 40% of his shots from 3-point-range, Sheppard’s favorite way of scoring still comes at the rim, he said.
“Elevating in the paint, getting above guys and dunking is one of my favorite things to do when my shot isn’t falling,” he said.
When Belmont faced crosstown rival Tennessee State University, Sheppard rose up for three powerful dunks, energizing his team to a big win.
In a more recent game against Tennessee Tech, Sheppard did it again, bringing home a new, outstanding career-high of 41 points.
That’s one shy of Belmont’s program record.
With Belmont falling behind at halftime and desperately needing a spark in that game, Sheppard provided as the Bruins went on to play an impressive second half.
But with 3.4 seconds left, they were still trailing.
With one last chance to tie, Sheppard nailed a heavily contested 3-pointer to send the game into overtime — whereBelmont pulled away with the victory.
In a week where he averaged 28 points, 6.5 rebounds and nearly 70% from the field, Sheppard was named OVC Player of the Week.
Sheppard believes his latest accomplishments are no surprise; they are results of hard work, from coaches and teammates as well.
“All of my teammates and coaches help me succeed and I really just owe it to them,” he said. “I’m not really an accolades type of guy, but I’m thankful that I’m able to accomplish these types of things.”
As for his team’s national recognition, which includes achieving 12 straight 20-win seasons and two votes in the AP’s Top 25 College Basketball Poll as of Feb. 14, Sheppard’s humble and level-headed persona shows as he looks down the road at the rest of Belmont’s season.
“It’s great that we’re getting this type of recognition, but it doesn’t really matter right now. Our goal is first place in the OVC, and we aren’t there right now,” Sheppard said.
Grinding towards those championship rings, Sheppard’s focus is locked in on the Bruins, but there are big and bright things in the back of his mind.
“I definitely want to play professionally, whether it’s in America or overseas, but I’m not thinking about that right now. The way I’ve been playing recently has generated some attention, but my mind is on the team, the season and winning more games,” he said.
Though he’s making his mark as one of Belmont’s key point producers, Sheppard refuses to let the spotlight shine on him alone. For him, it’s all about the Bruins.
“I’m super proud of the step that I’ve taken this year, and I’m glad it has helped the team,” he said.
“I plan on going forward with the same confidence I’ve been playing with over the past couple of weeks.”
PHOTO: No. 22 Ben Sheppard leaves a Morehead State player in the dust at the Feb. 10 home game in Belmont’s Curb Event Center. The bruins won 48-47. Jessica Mattsson / Belmont Vision.
This article was written by Landen Secrest. Contributory writing by Camden Morris.