On the basketball floor, Sanford has picked up another title for the Wildcats basketball team — unequivocal leader.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” said Wildcats coach Isaiah Carson. “He’s put the work in. The kids respect that. He shows up every day ready to work. He goes the hardest and you have to respect that. He’s one of the best captains I’ve ever had at Springfield High School.”
Sanford is averaging 13.5 points, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game for the Wildcats (15-9), who won a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East division title.
“We still did a good job of clinching it,” Sanford said. “Overall, I think our season is going pretty well. We had a tough schedule. It prepared us for the tournament. I’m glad we had a tough schedule to get to play against the best and be ready for the tournament.”
The Wildcats beat Troy 67-43 on Thursday
to advance to a Division I sectional final game against Sidney at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Vandalia Butler Student Activities Center.
Offensively, Sanford runs the Wildcats offense, distributing the ball to teammates before looking to score, Carson said. It’s on the other side of the floor where Sanford really shines, he said.
“He does a great job of help side,” Carson said. “We trust him on the ball and on the other guard’s best players. It’s a Sanford thing more than anything. … He’s feisty and tough as nails. He’s not backing down from anybody and that’s just the Springfield mentality.”
Springfield basketball is a family tradition for Sanford. His cousin, Walt Sanford, played on a state semifinal team at North in the mid-90s. His aunt, Amanda Jackson, was a South and Miami University women’s basketball legend, finishing her career as the leading scorer at both schools. She also played professionally both in the WNBA and overseas.
Jackson played a key role in Sanford’s development as a player, he said. Sanford was going to the gym with her at an early age.
“She knows a lot about the game,” he said. “From a player standpoint, I can always ask her about basketball because she’s played at every level.”
“My goal every game is to stop the best player (on the other team),” I take a lot of pride in my defense. That’s what sets the tone for our team — defense. I try to lead by example and play a lot of great defense so my guys can follow in my footsteps.”
Sanford has multiple options to play collegiately next year, including offers at the Division II and Division III levels. Earlier this year, he was awarded the annual Flying to the Hoop scholarship.
“Hopefully, I can decide before the school year is over,” Sanford said.
More offers could come after the season, Carson said, especially for a player with a 3.8 grade point average.
“He does everything the right way and we’re lucky to have him,” he said. “He’s the poster kid for Springfield. We appreciate him and we need more kids like him moving forward.”