Heritage girls basketball welcomes new coach | The Wake Weekly
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Heritage girls basketball welcomes new coach

Posted on April 4, 2022

Updated on April 10, 2022

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marty@wakeweekly.com | 919-424-1779

Jen Shepstead

Jen Shepstead

WAKE FOREST — Heritage athletic director Pat Kennedy will hand over the reins of the girls basketball team to new head coach Jen Shepstead.

She was announced as the new head coach during the school’s winter sports banquet. Shepstead was the girls junior varsity head coach this past season. Now, she has been promoted to head coach for the varsity squad.

“It was a surprise when Pat approached me to take over the team,” Shepstead said. “I thought he would coach the team for another year. He told me that it was time. It was an emotional conversation for me. The only reason I took the position is because he’s still going to stay on as athletic director here. That is such a blessing to continue that mentorship. I love what I do and building fundamentals.”

Shepstead has been around the sport of basketball almost her entire life. She was coached by her father growing up and she played college basketball at the University of Arizona and at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Right after she graduated from college, Shepstead started coaching U13 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball throughout the late 1990’s in Arizona.

Shepstead was an assistant coach under Karen Self at Seton Catholic High School in Arizona. She also served as an assistant coach at Highland High School in Arizona.

When Shepstead and her family moved to Wake Forest, she coached the junior varsity girls team at Wake Forest High School for one season before coming on at Heritage. This will be her first time being the head coach of a varsity team.

“I want to improve on the idea of the basketball team being like a family,” Shepstead said. “I want to have more collaboration between the girls varsity and junior varsity team. I’m always thinking of ideas of how to support each other not just on the court, but in the school hallways. I want to see those things translate on the court. I’m a strong believer that relationships are paramount in sports. If you have student-athletes who believe in each other, we can get more out of the season. That all comes from that family dynamic.”

Shepstead takes over a program that was run by Kennedy for the past eight seasons. He compiled an overall record of 147-60 during that span. He led the Huskies to two conference championships and seven 4A state playoff appearances.

Shepstead gave an honest answer about following in Kennedy’s footsteps and said she’s ready for the challenge.

“I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous taking over this team,” Shepstead said. “Pat is a phenomenal coach and he has done such an incredible job with this program. I’m thankful to have this opportunity. There’s so much excitement. We have great kids who go here. I’m always talking about logistics and I’m very analytical as a coach. We’re already talking about team camps and things we want to do during the summer. This sport is a huge part of my life.”

Heritage will be returning five players from this past season and four of them will be seniors for the 2022-23 school year. Shepstead is excited to welcome back players who she has built a relationship with and to rely on their leadership during her first season with the varsity team.

“I’m really excited about Sky Donaie,” Shepstead said. “Her and Jayden Rhodes came from a successful Rolesville Middle School team. It’s exciting to watch them from middle school and now playing at a varsity level. I’m thrilled about being their head coach and what they can contribute this year. I’m excited to see what a healthy Camarria Thomas can do for us. She has unbelievable potential. Caroline Ishman has been putting in some work, so I’m looking forward to see what her senior year will look like.”

Shepstead will be the fourth head coach in the history of Heritage’s girls basketball program. She won’t coach a game until November, but she has already laid down some foundational principles for the team to work on over the summer.

“We’re going to sit down and establish our team goals together,” Shepstead said. “I’m focused on attitude and mentality. We want to control the things we can control. Every day isn’t perfect, but we show up for each other. We give each other the best two hours on the court that we can. We’ll spend every minute pushing each other to get better. I hope to surprise some people this year. I aim to spend a lot of time in the gym with the girls. There’s work to be done.”

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