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Boys basketball: James Sandoval's determination reminds dad of self

12:00 AM, Dec. 26, 2012 EST

James Sandoval plays against Galena in front of his father, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Tom Smedes/Special to RGJ

Just minutes before tip-off, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval walked through the gym doors at Bishop Manogue and took a seat in the second row, smack dab at center court.

A few local basketball fans took notice.

James Sandoval, a 6-foot junior guard with the same pitch-black hair as the politician in the second row, proceeded to score 21 points against one of the area's elite teams.

The Miners lost to neighbor Galena on that night two weeks ago, but James Sandoval played with the grit and determination that reminded the governor of himself in a green Manogue uniform more than 30 years ago.

"He is such a competitor and hates to lose, which is similar to me," Gov. Brian Sandoval said.

The Sandoval who now mans point guard for Manogue couldn't forget his father is the governor if he so desired, which he doesn't. He is reminded of it all the time.

Whether it's simple questions about what it is like to be the governor's son or the long daily drive to the Governor's mansion in Carson City and whispers of special treatment, the office looms over the younger Sandoval.

But he is carving out his own niche, partly on the basketball court.

"I'm comfortable playing basketball," James said. "Shooting, dribbling, passing, I'm comfortable doing it all."

The way he goes about it and the effort exuded bring back some memories for Gov. Sandoval. The scoring output, however, differentiates the two.

"He is 10 times the player I was," said the first-term governor, who graduated from Manogue in 1981 after two seasons on the varsity team. "He plays like a warrior, but also a gentleman.

"He is his own person and has his own identity. He is more than the governor's son. It is somewhat of a fishbowl for him. But it is important for him and for me to see him get recognition for his accomplishments."

The same goes for daughter Maddy, a sophomore on the girls junior varsity team. "If you think James plays hard, you should see Maddy," said the governor, who this season is alternating between his kids' games, which are usually played simultaneously at opposite sites.

James began to receive that attention on the court last year. He made the varsity team as a sophomore and was in the rotation from the beginning.

Opposing coaches took notice of his quickness, the way he attacked the basketball and his fearlessness. He averaged 8.1 points per game and led the Miners in 3-pointers and assists.

"He's the guy we count on a lot and he carries with him a tremendous amount of pressure," first-year Manogue coach Brent McConaghy said. "He has a lot of pressure on him because I expect a lot out of the point guard position.

"He can have a 56 percent shooting percentage, a very good percentage, and not be happy with it. He'll wonder why he didn't make 75 percent or 100 percent. He expects a lot of himself, and that's a good thing and bad thing for a captain."

James, who also plays baseball, averages 16 points, seven assists, and four steals and last week was named to the Rail City Classic all-tournament team as the Miners (2-8) continue to accustom themselves to McConaghy's system.

Long before he was governor, Brian Sandoval was his son's first coach.

"The YMCA days," James said. "He knows a lot about the game and really got me to love the game. ... There is a legacy with Manogue and my family. I want to keep it going with my kids and then their kids."

The governor's former teams made two 2A state tournament appearances.

"I guess you say there's a little pressure but I don't think about it too much. I just try to be the best I can be," James said. "I want to keep the legacy going. Manogue has been known to win most of their games and I'm determined to reinstate that."




Boys Basketball

Rank School Record
1 Elko High School
Elko, NV
2 Lowry High School
Winnemucca, NV
3 Edward C Reed High School
Sparks, NV
4 Galena High School
Reno, NV
5 Reno High School
Reno, NV




Who had the top performance in the state football championships?