Kansas has Andrew Wiggins, Duke has Jabari Parker and Kentucky has Julius Randle – these top freshman recruits were all McDonald’s All-Americans in high schools.
The Horned Frogs can finally boast a top recruit too – Karviar Shepherd.
At 6 feet 10 inches and 225 pounds, Shepherd is the highest-rated recruit TCU has ever signed. He was the No. 48 overall prospect in the class of 2013, according to ESPN.com. Highly-touted for his defensive ability and overall athleticism, Shepherd received offers from Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Shepherd played for DeSoto High School as a freshman and sophomore. He sat out his junior year after transferring to Arlington Grace Prep. As a senior, he played at Deion Sanders’ charter school, Prime Prep Academy in Dallas.
Size? Check. Talent? Check. Work ethic? Double check.
Shepherd didn’t have the easiest route to basketball success, but those who know him say the challenges he has faced have helped him to develop the mindset needed to succeed at the collegiate level.
His AAU coach and mentor Jazzy Hartwell said Karviar has that undefinable element that makes some athletes special.
“Some kids do the wrong things all the time on and off the court. [Shepherd] didn’t,” Hartwell said. “He constantly made the right choices.”
Acting as a father figure, Hartwell said he instilled many lessons in Shepherd.
“I told him that life is a challenge and you just have to be strong with it,”Hartwell said.
One of those lessons came during Shepherd’s time at Grace Prep, when he couldn’t compete due to eligibility issues.
He was forced to sit on the sideline for every game his junior year. Shepherd said watching his teammates play the game they all loved without him was tough.
“I was depressed, but my support system picked me up and helped me get through,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd’s sister, Shatorya Shepherd and her three daughters are his support system. Shatorya often drove Karviar to practice and helped him with school work. His nieces cheered him on.
“I have a passion to play for them. I don’t want them to go through any of the struggles that I have been through growing up,” Shepherd said. “I feel like making it, or just going to school to get my degree, will be able to help them.”
The new culture that head coach Trent Johnson has created made TCU an obvious choice for Shepherd.
“Where I wanted to go, I wanted it to be a home base. I felt that the coaches were true to their words and that they would help me get better,” Shepherd said. “I wanted to go to a place where I could help a team get better.”
Johnson has called Shepherd “as coachable a player as I’ve been around.”
Shepherd said that “being coachable” is one of his strengths.
“I’ve taken it to heart to listen to somebody that has the experience of sending top players to the NBA and the experience of [being] a former player,” the first-year center said. “You’ve got to be coachable and to listen to what he is saying because he is there for you.”
Shepherd is enjoying life off the court at the university as well. He said he loves all his classes and all his professors have been great.
“TCU is a great place to be,” he said. “All the people are so great to one another.”
The atmosphere on campus has given Karviar something else to play for other than his team and family – the school.
“It gives me that edge that makes me feel like I should be playing for the school. I wanna help make this team better and give the fans something to root for,” he said. “I feel like the students deserve a good basketball team.”
While Shepherd is working hard to get the Frogs on the basketball map, he also has personal goals. He wants to make it to that next level.
“I have a passion. I have like this gorilla on my back. I just got to make it,” Shepherd said.
The season is here and Karviar is ready to become a personality the school can get behind.
So while Shepherd may not be followed by ESPN cameras like his fellow freshmen Wiggins, Parker and Randle, he isn’t worried about his spot in the basketball world.
Instead, Shepherd is worried about getting the Horned Frogs to the big dance with the attitude and the skills to help.