Men's Basketball

Jessamine County: Big scorer to big screen? Ex-Transy star Bingham has big plans

Vince Bingham returned to Transylvania as the school's coordinator of multicultural affairs. The Jessamine County native's all-time men's school scoring record  set in 1998 still stands.

Joseph Rey Au
 FILE PHOTO
Vince Bingham returned to Transylvania as the school's coordinator of multicultural affairs. The Jessamine County native's all-time men's school scoring record set in 1998 still stands. Joseph Rey Au FILE PHOTO Charles Bertram | Staff

Back in the early 1990s, as he was becoming the all-time leading boys' basketball scorer in Jessamine County High School history, Vince Bingham was not the stereotypical hoops star.

"He was an awesome player," says Tim Peterson, the former Jessamine head coach. "But he was a different kind of kid because he was really interested in theater and drama and acting in plays."

In the mid-1990s, as he was becoming the all-time leading men's basketball scorer in Transylvania University history, Bingham was the opposite of the all-consumed college athlete.

"His senior year, he was our best player, but I had to go and meet with the director of the fall production, the fall play on campus, because Vince wanted to act in the play," says former Transy head coach Don Lane.

"I knew there was going to be some overlap with basketball. But he really wanted to do it and we figured out a way to make it happen. And he was phenomenal in the play."

With that as background, you shouldn't be surprised to know that, at age 35, one of the best basketball players ever produced in Jessamine County is not looking to launch a coaching career or plotting another way back into the game.

Bingham — whose day job is coordinator of multicultural affairs at Transy — has written a movie screen play and hopes to attract financing to make it into an independent film.

"That, always, has been a dream," Bingham said last week.

First family of sports

Athletics enthusiasts in Jessamine County probably have a bone to pick with Paul and Janice Bingham: That they didn't have more children.

Vince Bingham's younger sister, Nikki, won back-to-back Class 3A Kentucky state high school championships for Jessamine in the shot put in 1996 and '97.

Vince's older brother, also named Paul, joined with big man Keith Peel as the stars of the 1990 Jessamine County High basketball team that made that school's only trip to the boys' state tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals.

Paul Bingham was something of a miniature Charles Barkley, a 6-foot-2 power forward whose acumen around the basket defied his lack of height.

As a small child, Vince says he loved soccer most of all. However, watching his older brother's basketball success helped transfer Vince's sports passion to hoops.

"I never told him because I think it would make his head big, but I always kept my eyes on my brother," Bingham said last week. "At games, I'd watch his every move. That's where I got a lot of my moves from."

Vince was an eighth-grader during the 1990 state tournament run.

"That was the first time we'd ever gone," Bingham says of Jessamine County. "I still remember the caravan that was headed from Nicholasville to Louisville. It was so much fun."

Sitting in Freedom Hall watching his brother play on the biggest stage in Kentucky high school hoops, Vince says he had one thought: "I'll be there someday.''

It never happened.

"We had some good teams," he said, "but it seemed like first round of the region was as far as we would go."

By his senior year at Jessamine, the versatile 6-foot-3 left-hander averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 67 percent from the field.

Yet Vince having never gotten the statewide publicity that comes from a Sweet Sixteen appearance, the state's high school coaches only voted him onto the second team of the 1994 Herald-Leader All-State squad.

The college scouts still found their way to Nicholasville.

"I think we were the only non-Division I school he was even considering," Transylvania's Lane says. "Vince had a lot of D-I offers."

Big fish, small pond

A high school kid with interests other than basketball decided a private school in Lexington was his best bet for a balanced college experience.

Vince Bingham picked Transylvania.

"I could have gone to Division I schools," he says. "But I guess I really am a different personality. Here, I was a basketball player, but I was involved in drama, I was involved in a fraternity. To me, that part of the college experience was more important than just going somewhere and playing sports for four years."

None of which is to suggest Bingham wasn't serious about his college hoops.

Now, Transylvania competes in the non-scholarship NCAA Division III. Back then, it offered hoops grants-in-aid and competed with Georgetown, Campbellsville, Lindsey Wilson and the school then-known as Cumberland on the hyper-competitive Kentucky NAIA circuit.

Bingham says the small-college rivalry that used to exist between Transy and Georgetown was, in its way, every bit as intense as Kentucky versus Louisville.

"The hype wasn't as big, but with the intimate atmosphere, playing-wise, I think our (rivalry) was more intense," he said. "One of my favorite games in college was the Tuesday (Georgetown) came here, my junior year, they had just gotten the No. 1 ranking in the country and they came in here and we beat them."

Bingham was an immediate hit at Transy, playing big minutes and putting points on the board from his freshman year on.

By Feb. 24 of his senior year (1998), he dropped 27 points on Asbury and in doing so passed Daniel Swintosky as Transy's all-time leading scorer.

Ultimately, Bingham finished with 2,109 points at Transylvania and remains the school's all-time men's hoops leading scorer.

Says Bingham: "The thing about being the all-time leading scorer at a college, I think instead of a number it's more the confidence and the trust that the team has in you to be the go-to guy.

"When I was here at Transy, we had talent, a lot of talent, my freshman year to my senior year. But they trusted me as the go-to guy. That's what that record means to me."

The movie bug

During his freshman year at Transylvania, Bingham says he became friendly with a guy in his residence hall who was into theater.

Vince went to watch him in a play. "I was talking to him afterward, he was like, 'You can do this, too, if you want,'" Bingham remembers. "Eventually, I got some confidence and took some acting classes."

His big stage moment at Transy came playing Cle'onte in the Moliere play The Bourgeois Gentleman.

"I was one of the leads," Bingham says. "I was trying to marry The Bourgeois Gentleman's daughter and he didn't think I was good enough. It was so much fun. A great experience."

Once he graduated from Transylvania with a degree in business administration, Bingham played a couple of seasons of pro basketball in Austria and figured he would eventually go into banking.

When the pro hoops ended, he soon was enticed back to Transy in a multicultural affairs job. Essentially, Bingham's role at Transylvania is trying to help other minority students do what he did at the private school: Have a positive, well-rounded experience.

Vince has earned a master's degree in education policy from the University of Kentucky. If he ever cuts the cord with his college alma mater, he'd like to become a dean of students at a mid-sized university similar to Eastern Kentucky.

Yet, just like in his basketball days, Bingham's passion remains theater and film.

When the Kentucky Theater has its classic movie night, "I'm in there to study," he said. "I look at particular scenes, how they're shot, the cinematography."

From classic movie director Alfred Hitchcock to titans of African-American cinema such as Spike Lee and John Singleton to independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Vince studies all their work.

Vince has done some behind-the-camera work for independent films shot in and near Kentucky.

Most importantly to him, he's now finished a movie script though he has yet to choose a title for it.

"It took me about four years to write it," Bingham said. "It's a crime drama with a love story as the foundation of it."

Vince has formed a production company, Second Exit Films, and soon plans to try to raise "about $5 million" to shoot the movie.

That's a lot of money needed to pursue a dream.

"It is, it is," Bingham says. "The thing is, what I've written, if it were in Hollywood, it would be a $20 million, $30 million movie. But this is just another, I guess, challenging chapter in my life that I am ready to take on."

Vince Bingham is hardly a stereotypical ex-basketball star, either.

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