LEXINGTON — There have been a handful of father-son combos who both played basketball at UK.
With some research and help from UK sports historian Russell Rice, I was able to locate at least nine of them, including Terry and Cameron Mills as well as Allen and Deron Feldhaus. And one of them is a current Wildcat whose dad played for coach Joe B. Hall during the early 1980s.
Who would that be? You are right if you mention Tod Lanter, a 6-2 junior guard who grew up in Lexington.
Remember his dad, Bo Lanter, a 6-1 guard from Woodford County High who played three years for UK squads which had stars like Sam Bowie, Kyle Macy, Melvin Turpin and Jim Master?
As for the younger Lanter, he came to Kentucky in 2012 from Gulf Coast State College in Florida. He first was a practice player for the Wildcats and eventually earned a roster spot as a walk-on for coach John Calipari’s team.
Why did Tod come to UK knowing that he probably wouldn’t see a lot of playing time as Kentucky is loaded with future NBA stars?
“Because every little boy that ever picks up a basketball in the state of Kentucky dreams of putting that jersey on,” Lanter explained in an e-mail. “I was no different. I am so blessed.”
Entering this week’s SEC action, Lanter hasn’t appeared in a single game yet this season. But, in a pre-season exhibition game, he grabbed a pair of rebounds in one minute during Kentucky’s 76-42 victory over Transylvania.
A graduate of Lexington’s Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, Lanter, though, is still highly motivated to be a part UK’s tradition-rich basketball history.
“How could I not be motivated? Look at this program. This team. The guys I get to step on this court with every day. This is a dream come true for me,” said Lanter, who last season saw action in six games for nine minutes. “Dad always told me, ‘If I could take my experiences at Kentucky and give them to you, I would do it in a heartbeat’ because he said he would get that much satisfaction from the joy I would get from living out this dream.
“And now I understand why he always said that. I chose to come to Kentucky after junior college because I decided that by the time I was done here, I would be the best basketball player I could be, I would graduate with multiple degrees from a great university, and I would build relationships that will last a lifetime. And I’m blessed to have those opportunities.”
Lanter, the team’s oldest player who turned 23 on Feb. 15, said his dad is a great role model.
“He has been everything I could ask for in a role model, and I wanted to be just like him growing up,” said the younger Lanter. “With that said, he never cared if I chose to play baseball or football instead of basketball, as long as I was happy doing it and gave it my all. Although I was probably a better athlete on the field, I loved basketball. So I gave it my all. And here I am.”
Bo Lanter, a former 6-1 guard who is now a Lexington businessman, said he was more than happy at the time when he learned that Tod had officially joined the UK basketball squad.
“I can never express the overwhelming feeling of playing basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats and achieving the opportunity of putting on that Kentucky uniform,” said the elder Lanter. “However, watching your son have that same opportunity far surpasses anything I felt for my own accomplishments.”
When Bo Lanter came to Kentucky in 1979, he was a walk-on who practiced with the team but was ineligible to play because of NCAA transfer rules. Then he became a scholarship player for three years. He had some good moments on the floor at Kentucky, too.
His first great memory was helping the second-ranked Wildcats defeat Coach Digger Phelps and his No. 8 Notre Dame club 86-80 in a big Louisville showdown at Freedom Hall during his sophomore year of 1979-80. He played seven minutes in a reserve role and scored two points.
“I got in the game early and played confident, hit a shot and handled the ball well. This was big for me early in my UK career,” said Lanter.
His last regular season home game at Kentucky in 1982 was also very memorable.
“My last game in Rupp Arena, on Senior Night, was truly the kind of ending that dreams are made of. Obviously, all the UK fans are cheering for the seniors, but this night was special,” recalled Lanter. “It’s like God had the perfect ending planned for the years of hard work. I hit every shot, including the 72-footer at the end of the game. What a way to end your career!”
The home finale’s box score will show that Lanter pumped in eight points in six minutes with the Cats stopping Mississippi State 71-54.
Lanter and his wife, Joy, also have two daughters, Kyndall and Baylee. Like Tod, Kyndall is a NCAA Division I athlete, playing soccer at Southern Mississippi.
At UK, one of Tod’s favorite stories took place during his first day of practice last season when former actor and motivational speaker Steve Shenbaum visited with the Wildcats to work on team-building exercises.
Added Tod, “It was literally my first day with the team, and I had just met the majority of my teammates in the locker room minutes before. Mr. Shenbaum had no idea who most of us were as many of the guys were either freshmen or transfers. And out of all the people in that room, he chose me to come up on stage and act out a skit with him. His exercises are meant to be funny and get the team laughing together.
“On my first day as a Wildcat, I had one of the most prominent coaches in college basketball history laughing hysterically in the back of the room. Over the next hour or so we laughed and joked together as Mr. Shenbaum led us through what amounted to an interactive comedy routine and he allowed us to loosen up and laugh with one another.
“He gave me the best ‘coming-out party’ I could have asked for, and allowed my teammates to get to know me as a person from day one. Definitely one of my first and favorite memories as a Wildcat thus far.”
And Tod will certainly have more good memories or stories to share by the time he finishes his “dream” career at UK.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is currently a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.