FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) – To play basketball, at the collegiate level; is an honor very few athletes get to share. For many, including Andre Sheppard, it’s serves as a reminder almost; of the work involved to achieve that level of play.
“I look forward towards the offseason – cause I look forward to seeing what I can build on – and see how much better I can get from the last season, so really just seeing myself get better. I love working out.” said Andre Sheppard, when speaking about his love for growing as a player.
It is a love for the game, and for the process; that is continuously being tested. The COVID-19 pandemic shaken up the world of college basketball recruiting, and transfers; turning it on it’s head, and compounding the issues present now.
“It’s a little stressful – cause I know I’m putting in the work everyday – trying to send my film out to coaches. But just like everything – everything always works out.”, says Andre.
A former St. John’s Catholic Prep basketball player, Andre just graduated from the SPIRE Insitute in Geneva, Ohio, after playing a year there as a post-grad student. Despite the late challenges of being away from family, due to his playing schedule; Andre’s positive attitude never changed.
“Literally one of the best kids I’ve ever met, and I would run through a wall for that kid.”, said Julian Vaughn; a former pro basketball player, and owns Pro-Fit Basketball Training, in Bethesda, Maryland.
“This dude is really willing to do anything – and this dude is a really fighter – I really admire that about him.”, said Brandon Murray; who played with Andre in their 14U AAU team.
“Going to school playing basketball – going to another school playing basketball – to now trying to achieve playing college – and it’ll be great to see him on the floor – anywhere. Just to be playing.”, said Danny Murray, Brandon’s father, who trains both Brandon, and Andre.
Andre is lucky to have that kind of support system around him; it certainly makes it that much more easier in life for him, considering how far he’s come.
“I was a football player at first – but then when I got diagnosed with cancer — it was — of course I couldn’t play football no more.”, said Andre
“In the beginning, I thought – I just don’t even have words for the feelings that I had. I just thought I was preparing to lose my child – and there’s no way to prepare for that.”, said Ayanna Hill, Andre’s mother, as she described some of her first memories from back when Andre was diagnosed.
Andre was only nine years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia; but even as a child, his positive nature took front seat, as him, and his family coped through the situation.
“So when they came in and said it – I didn’t even really understand what it was.” said Andre, “I see everybody crying – mom was crying – grandad. I didn’t really know what it was – but I just told everybody I’m going to be alright. I just knew – something told me that I knew I was going to be alright.”
“I’ll never forget – he was graduating from the sixth grade. And he was bald – he had just started going to school for a little bit- and he was walking with a crutch. The chemotherapy had affected his legs.” said Ayanna, “He wanted to present to his sixth grade class like what was going on with him. And he stood in front of the class, what was going on with him, the treatment – I think that’s when I knew Andre was special.”
The early stages of recovery for Andre were difficult; but eventually, he got to a point where he wanted to play contact sports again. Because of a medical instrument that was installed into his body at that point, he had to switch sports to playing basketball.
Andre never thought of himself as a basketball player when he was younger, but his grandfather was a major factor in facilitating that shift for him.
I tell a lot of people, some of the regimens I put him through – I wouldn’t have been able to do them myself. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. But he did, and no complaints or anything.” said Michael Hill, Andre’s grandfather.
Michael would describe some of Andre’s early workouts as “battles”, whether it was based off banter between them, or the kind of word Andre had to do, just to regain strength.
He would be working out the same amount of time I was. I had a session every hour on the hour- and so you know what man, just come hop in and work out with us. And so, he was good – he’s talented — he enhanced the drills.” said Julian; when describing some of his early memories of Andre.
Andre would make it a point to train for three, or more hours; at that point in the Germantown Soccerplex. And he’d also have to walk back to his place, which was three miles away. Julian said he wanted to help Andre, and started doing so by offering rides; and then building a mentor-mentee relationship through that.
“All the time, because he just seems after that situation, wow he is here playing. Still here playing – getting better.” said Danny Murray, describing how much Andre still impresses him.
“He threw himself in the fire – he just – he was just always that kid. I knew he was going to do well – but he was – it’s just Andre. That’s just a saying we have – it’s just Andre.”, said Brandon, summarizing Andre in a simple, short; but honest phrase.
It’s just Andre. And Andre continues to lead by his own example, staying positive, and staying true to the commitment he made to himself; both physically, and mentally.
“I feel like the year I had at Spire- I had a good year.” said Andre, “The film shows it- and somebody is going to see it- and appreciate it. When my name get’s called – I’ll be ready.”