There’s a sports philosophy known as “Next man up,” meaning that every player should be ready to contribute.
But at Fremont, it’s more like “Next Shepard up.”
The latest Shepard sister taking that mantra to heart is Samantha, a 5-foot-11 forward. The junior has taken the scoring reins for the Tigers, following in the footsteps of sister Jessica, one of the state’s best high school players ever.
Samantha is among the Class A scoring leaders, averaging 18.5 points per game. That’s almost double her output from last season, when high-scoring guard Rylie Cascio Jensen led the way with a 22-point average.
Shepard said she’s comfortable scoring more for the Tigers, who are coming off a 21-7 season.
“I know it’s something that we’re going to need,” she said. “We graduated some great players from last year, so I figured things were going to be different.”
The Tigers graduated not just Cascio Jensen but second-leading scorer Meghan Luper, who averaged almost 14 a game. Shepard was third at 9.5, but early returns this year show Shepard is ready for the added responsibility.
“Coach (Tony Weinandt) and I talked about it a lot over the summer,” she said. “I told him I was willing to do whatever I could to help the team.”
Helping the team has never been a problem for the Shepards, most notably Jessica. She finished her varsity career in 2015 with 2,227 points, fourth on the state’s career list.
The sisters were teammates at Fremont when Jessica was a senior and Samantha was a freshman. Jessica is now in her second season at Nebraska.
“I know I’ll probably always be compared to Jess, and that’s OK,” Samantha said. “But we’re different players and I just want to go out and do the best I can.”
So far, that’s been pretty good. She has 91 points in the Tigers’ five games, though the young team — there are no senior starters — is 1-4.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’ve had a challenging schedule,” Weinandt said. “But I think if we stay with the process, we’ll have a good season.”
The coach added that Shepard has responded to his scoring challenge the way he hoped.
“When you lose the people like we did, we knew someone was going to have to score,” he said. “Sam is a hard worker and she does a great job of letting the game come to her.”
Samantha isn’t the only Shepard contributing this season. Her sister Emma, a 5-9 freshman, is the starting point guard and averages 11 points per game.
“It’s fun playing on the same team,” Samantha said. “We’ve always been really close.”
And in following with the “Next Shepard up” philosophy, the youngest sister — Sarah — is a seventh-grader who also loves basketball.
“Sarah is the last one,” Weinandt said. “We’ve been so fortunate to have the Shepard family here.”
Weinandt, in his 16th season as coach, said comparisons among those sisters are inevitable. But they always have certain traits in common.
“They all have a tremendous work ethic and a real love of the game,” he said. “And when we need a leader, they’re not shy about taking over that role.”
Like Samantha, who hopes her success at Fremont will help lead to a Division I scholarship someday. Schools that have shown interest include UNO, South Dakota, Denver and UMKC.
But for now, this Shepard sister is focusing all of her attention on the Tigers.
“We’re young but we’re all learning a lot,” Shepard said. “I think the future looks good.”