High School Basketball

Sanford, Stewart make most of dads' assists

Vince Sanford and Prince Stewart were among Lexington's brightest high school basketball stars in the 1980s.

Charlotte Court neighbors as kids, they were first-team all-state players at Lafayette and went on to play college hoops on the Division I level.

Two decades later, their namesake sons are making headlines and TV highlights by showing they've got game, too.

Vince Sanford II, who goes by "Vee," is a 6-foot-3 senior standout at Lexington Catholic. Prince Stewart Jr. is a 6-0 senior sharpshooter at Henry Clay.

Both are prolific scorers, each averaging more than 20 points, but they've got all-around skills, which is a testament to their fathers' involvement.

Neither dad pushed his son into basketball.

Prince Jr. didn't play hoops until the sixth grade.

"I didn't want to put pressure on him because of what I had done as a player," Prince Sr. said. "If he wanted to play, I wanted him to enjoy it.

"A lot of fathers get caught up in what they did when they were young. I didn't want to be like that."

Once Prince Jr. got a taste of basketball, he loved it. But he knew he couldn't shortchange the game in effort.

"My dad told me I had to be dedicated to it," he said, "and that I had to be a complete player, ball-handling, defense, not just a shooter.

"But the main thing he taught me was I had to work for everything because nothing would be given to me."

Not even with his familiar name.

"When I was younger I thought there might be some pressure being another Prince Stewart, but as I got older I let it go and just played.

"When I did that, I got positive feedback, and it was a real compliment when people said I looked and played like my dad."

Vince Sanford said his son was better at football than basketball at a young age. But Vee eventually discovered that his skinny body was better suited to hoops.

In football practice early in his freshman year at Lafayette, Vee had a collision with a bigger, stronger teammate.

"When Vee came back to the huddle, his helmet was on sideways and we had to straighten up his shoulder pads," Vince remembered.

"On the way home he asked me, 'Would you mind if I sit out football this year?'

"He only weighed 130 pounds soaking wet, so I was kind of relieved."

Dad also lightened expectations for his son by nicknaming him Vee.

"I didn't want him to be called Vince and have that extra pressure of trying to live up to what little things I did in high school," he said.

"If he was 'Vee' he could do his own thing. A lot of people didn't even know he was my son."

Once Vee focused on basketball, his father preached fundamentals.

"When I was a young kid he had me dribbling the ball around the house," Vee said.

"I wasn't allowed to shoot much until I had ball-handling down pat, with my left hand and right hand."

Vince didn't want his son to be a one-dimensional player.

"I wanted him to be able to do everything — handle the ball, run the offense, score, rebound and play defense," he said. "I didn't want him labeled with one position. I just wanted him to be a basketball player, like it used to be back in the day."

Back in their day, Vince and Prince Sr. were terrific high school players.

Vince was a strong 6-foot-5 swingman who averaged 16.5 points and 10 rebounds as a senior in 1982-83. (He didn't make Lafayette's 1,000-point club because he was sidelined much of his junior season with a foot infection.)

Vince was versatile — strong around the basket but also a good jump shooter.

His high school highlights included a win over national power DeMatha and a regular-season upset of eventual state champion Henry Clay.

Vince originally signed with Kentucky, but he had a change of heart a couple months later and went to South Florida.

Vee has never seen film of his dad on the court, but people have given him a scouting report.

"I've heard he was very exciting to watch, that he finished around the rim a lot, that he had a nice touch on his jump shot, and that he was a good jumper."

Vince said it's hard to compare his own hoops style to that of his son.

"We're completely different types," Vince said. "I was one to try to dunk on you. I didn't handle the ball as well as Vee. He's smooth. I think I had a better jump shot, and I took a lot of pride in my defense."

Vee has a unique offensive weapon — a floating jumper — that his dad helped him develop at a young age so he could shoot over older, taller players.

"The floater is my signature move," said Vee, who has eclipsed 1,000 points since transferring from Lafayette to Lexington Catholic before his junior year.

Knights Coach Brandon Salsman called Vee's floater "deadly.

"Any time he gets off on that one leg, angles his body and hangs in the air for so long, it goes down real easy."

When Prince Sr. played at Lafayette, he was an unflappable point guard. He averaged 15 points and five assists as a senior in 1986-87, and he had 1,038 points in his career.

His best high school memories are an upset of national power Marion, Ind., in Rupp Arena, and a win over Henry Clay in the district tournament.

He went on to play college ball at Texas-El Paso.

Prince Jr. has seen video of his dad at UTEP.

"He was real aggressive and ran the point real well. He was in control of the team, and that's something I try to emulate."

Prince Jr. has played point guard for Henry Clay this season, and for his dad it's been like looking back in time.

"I've seen quite a bit of myself in Prince this year, the way he's directing the team more, showing more leadership and being a lot more vocal," Prince Sr. said.

The Stewarts used to play a lot of one-on-one, but now that dad is closing in on 40, Prince Jr. is too much for him to handle.

Prince Sr. still critiques strengths and weaknesses in his son's game, but he is mostly a spectator, sitting quietly in the upper reaches of the stands.

"I'm grinding on the inside, though, getting my competitive spirit up," he said.

Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown praised the way Prince Sr. has tutored Prince Jr., and Trey Stewart, a promising sophomore.

"He's provided a well-structured guidance for his sons," Brown said. "He teaches his kids not only how to play, but also how they handle themselves on the floor."

The Sanfords never played much one-on-one because Vince has always been so much bigger and stronger than Vee.

When they did face off, father didn't take it easy on son. That's still the case, even though Vince is 44.

"When I was a young kid I was always crying to my mom because he was so rough on me," Vee said with a smile. "I couldn't beat him because he always fouled me. He always told me I wouldn't get those calls on the road."

Vince, who was an assistant coach at Lafayette and is on the bench at Lexington Catholic, confessed as much.

"When we play, I do hold him, push him and give him forearms," he said with a laugh. "It's all part of toughening him up."

Although it's hard for Vince and Prince to fathom that it's been more than two decades since they were hooping it up in Lexington, it's just as hard to realize their sons' high school careers are almost over.

Prince Jr. is getting looks from Morehead State, Georgetown College, Winston-Salem State in North Carolina, Asbury and Western Kentucky.

Vee, considered one of the top college prospects in the state, has scholarship offers from UAB, Bradley, Charlotte, Indiana State, Nebraska, SMU, Saint Louis, Toledo and Wyoming. He's also on the recruiting radar of Georgetown University and UK.

Neither player is in any hurry to make a college choice, though.

They're having too much fun playing high school ball, and adding to the basketball legacy of their family names.

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