The annual UK HealthCare Boys’ Sweet 16 state basketball tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington is a celebration of high school hoops in Kentucky.
Big and small schools alike from across the commonwealth gather in Lexington for a few days of frenetic action on the hardwood, with a state champion crowned at the end of it.
But the 2023 edition of the Sweet 16 is highlighted by a trio of top college basketball recruits — all in different age groups — who have helped lead their respective schools to the biggest stage in Kentucky high school basketball.
Class of 2023 combo guard Reed Sheppard (North Laurel), class of 2024 point guard Travis Perry (Lyon County) and class of 2025 guard Jasper Johnson (Woodford County) headline the talent in Lexington this week for the state tournament.
Here’s what you need to know about each player, their college basketball recruitment and how they’ve helped bring their schools to the cusp of a state championship.
School: North Laurel (13th Region).
Position: Combo guard.
Weight: 175 lbs.
College recruitment: Sheppard is a Kentucky signee and will be one of five incoming freshmen on the UK team next season.
Recruit ranking: Sheppard is ranked as the No. 22 player in the 2023 class by Rivals and the No. 44 player in the 2023 class by 247Sports. He’s ranked by the 247Sports Composite as the No. 30 player overall and the No. 8 combo guard in the 2023 class.
Key stats: Sheppard is averaging 22.1 points per game, and is the leading scorer for North Laurel this season. Sheppard is also North Laurel’s leading rebounder with 8.7 rebounds per game.
Quotable: “There’s definitely a chance Reed can provide some perimeter firepower early on in Lexington,” Tony McNiff, a scouting analyst for MADE Hoops who watched Sheppard play earlier this season, told the Herald-Leader in December.
“In terms of improvement, there’s definitely room to become more explosive and build onto his frame to compete in a physical conference. He has a functional first step, however there’s definitely some space to expand his quickness.”
Next game: vs. Clark County, 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
School: Lyon County (2nd Region).
Position: Point guard.
Weight: 170 lbs.
College recruitment: Perry is uncommitted. The class of 2024 backcourt player has a long list of high-major offers that includes Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Virginia.
Perry took official visits this season to Michigan, Ole Miss and Purdue, and he’s also expected to visit Virginia following the end of his high school season.
Recruit ranking: Perry is ranked as the No. 86 player in the 2024 class by both Rivals and 247Sports. He’s ranked by the 247Sports Composite as the No. 89 player overall and the No. 11 point guard in the 2024 class.
Key stats: Perry is averaging 32.2 points per game, and is the leading scorer for Lyon County.
Perry has scored 4,317 career points in his high school career, and is only 20 points shy of Kelly “King” Coleman’s Kentucky boys’ high school record of 4,337 career points.
Quotable: “He may not be a very explosive athlete or possess advantageous size for the high major level, but there is a ton to like in the offensive threat that Travis Perry presents moving forward,” Pro Insight Basketball analyst Alex Brown told the Herald-Leader this month.
Next game: vs. Newport, 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
School: Woodford County (8th Region).
Weight: 165 lbs.
College recruitment: Johnson is uncommitted. The class of 2025 backcourt player has scholarship offers from the likes of Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Texas A&M, West Virginia and Xavier.
Johnson recently told 247Sports he has visited the following schools: Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Xavier.
Recruit ranking: Johnson is ranked as the No. 26 player in the 2025 class by Rivals and the No. 33 player in the 2025 class by 247Sports. He’s ranked by the 247Sports Composite as the No. 26 player overall and the No. 4 combo guard in the 2025 class.
Key stats: Johnson is averaging 20.9 points per game this season, and is the leading scorer for Woodford County.
Quotable: “Jasper, he’s a great player, a great teammate. … Our whole starting five and the rest that come off the bench, everybody’s got to do their part,” Woodford County head coach Jaron Brown said Monday during a pre-Sweet 16 Zoom interview with media members.
Next game: vs. Jeffersontown, 11 a.m. Wednesday.
This story was originally published March 14, 2023, 7:00 AM.