Photo provided
Billy, Bill, David, and Steve Shepherd
Photo provided Billy, Bill, David, and Steve Shepherd

Bill Shepherd, the patriarch of the famous Indiana basketball family who was laid to rest last week in Carmel, was a man of principle, honesty, integrity, goodness and kindness. 

He was a friend to many, and respected by all who crossed his path during his 91 years.

Bill was a family man . . . He always put family first.

He also found time to become a celebrated basketball player and coach and leader of young men. 

The Shepherd family left a decades-long imprint on Carmel and statewide basketball.

When it comes to Indiana high school basketball royalty, it started and ended with the Shepherds — regarded as the First Family of Indiana High School basketball.

It all started with William (Bill Shepherd) — from the golden age through the years that ‘Our Game’ was proudly considered and referred to as King, not to mention revered throughout the country.

Bill led Hope HS to its only sectional and regional titles, coached Mitchell to 3 sectional championships, and took Carmel HS to the State Basketball Finals, finishing runner-up in 1970.

He was selected to the Indiana All-Star team in 1945. 

Yep, that’s where this wonderful family tree sprouted.

Oldest son Billy was Mr. Basketball in 1968, David was Mr. Basketball in 1970, Billy’s oldest son Scott was an Indiana All-Star in 1992, and Big Bill’s youngest son Steve was a member of the Greyhounds’ 1977 state championship team . . . another first for the Shepherd family.

All of the Shepherd men played college basketball, and Bill, Billy and David were honored as Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.

 There was only one girl, Cindy, in the family of three boys. Cindy Shepherd was married to Bob McCurdy, an All-American at the University of Richmond. 

Bill’s love of family only outweighed his love of basketball. A player, a coach and a leader of young men on and off the court, he was a man I looked up to and cherished and deeply respected.

Quite frankly, outside of my grandpa and dad Bill Shepherd might have been the best man I knew. Maybe ever. 

Bill never met a stranger. He and his wife Edie, who preceded him in death in 2011, thought of me as family. She even told me that. She even invited to a family functions. “Please come, she said . . . after all you are family, Mark.’’ I mean, wow  . . . what an honor!

Billy and David reminded me of how much their dad always thought of me as we embraced one another at the Carmel Methodist Church during the calling for their dad. Billy and wife Connie; David and wife Sally; and Cindy were the final ones to greet us. Scott, a sharp and effervescent young man who was honored on the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Silver Anniversary team a couple years ago, said the same when we were waiting to go not the sanctuary. 

I teared up. How could I not?

Emotions ran deep while I joined hundreds and hundreds of friends and colleagues and former Carmel players and school and IHSAA officials, including IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox also stood in what was the longest line I’ve ever seen. It took us 2 hours before we even reached the entrance to the sanctuary.

I was full of emotions and memories as I waited patiently to see the family and say goodbye to Big Bill. There was so much wonderful basketball memorabilia to be viewed along our route.

I was 19 — still wet behind the ears and writing sports for The Kokomo Tribune — when I was introduced to Carmel and Shepherd basketball. I was sent to Carmel to do a story on this gunslinger named Billy, then a sophomore. As I recall, he scored 36 points that night. The story was “Billy The Kid Shooting It Up’’ Carmel. 

Man, I was proud of that story and how it likely helped grow the Legend of Billy Shepherd.

Billy was a senior and David a sophomore, when they helped lead Carmel to a fourth straight sectional title during Billy’s 4 years, and David would add 2 more. 

As the Greyhounds were preparing to go to the Anderson Regional in Billy’s senior year, the marquee in front of the Shepherd family church read: “Shepherds Flock To Anderson.’’

 Billy also scored a state-high 70 points that year in a win over Brownsburg. He used to bank in jump shots from the corners. Such sweet kisses on the glass. He was a special talent — the best basketball player I ever saw under 6 feet — really something special to see.

I remember Bill Shepherd inviting me to sit in at their home in the recruitment of Billy by Kentucky’s Joe. B. Hall. Boy did I feel special and honored! 
But Billy, of course, wound up following his dad to Butler University, where he played for Tony Hinkle. I remember watching Steve Shepherd, then a pretty small tyke, shooting tennis balls into a waste basket  located not far off from where the adults were talking at the kitchen table. 

Steve had that look in his eye even at such a young age  . . .  And man could all the Shepherds shoot the rock!

One experience — and still one of my fondest memories — took place in the Fort Wayne Semistate in David’s senior year at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum. 

Media were seated not very far away from the court, stretching from south to north. Probably the closest seat to the action on the floor I ever enjoyed. 
After Carmel secured the semi-state title, David spotted me, and walked over to the table. I stood up, said “well done,’’ as he shook my hand. To this day I can still see my Kokomo Tribune boss Bob Ford and the other older scribes look on in awe. I’m guessing that was sorta unusual. But, WOW, what a bond, what a moment!

Another fond memory is Bill Shepherd sending me a ticket for a seat at the 1970 State Finals. I mean it was a really good seat. I didn’t rate a State Finals media press credential at that time. Again, Papa Shep made me feel special.

And I got to watch David score a state-record 40 points in the championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Only thing better would have been for the Hounds to cut down the nets.

Folks, you can’t put a price tag on such memories. You just can’t! 

So, here’s to great memories.

Here’s to a great family.

Here’s to a great man, a true icon who did so much, meant so much to so many, and brought joy to so many people.

Here’s to Bill Shepherd and his flock. A basketball family that certainly etched its name in the archives of Indiana High School basketball.

Yes, Papa Shep was one for the ages! And, I really miss him.

-Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling 317 460-8018.