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In fact, he said, "Prince was a darn good basketball player. The problem is he just didn't grow." His class had one of the best basketball teams in Minnesota history, and Prince couldn't crack the giant-sized lineup despite great quickness and ball-handling skills. He wasn't pleased.
As youth leader for Park Avenue United Methodist Church -- where Prince had his first wedding in 1996 -- Art Erickson saw him almost every day throughout his teens. Prince came to play ball, and also went to church camp. Erickson made the rounds at local schools, so he often would join Prince at lunch. Blacks, whites and biracial kids segregated themselves, and Prince normally sat with the biracial kids, Erickson said.
One day, the budding musician told Erickson that his home life was troubled, and that his stepdad had sometimes locked him in a room for hours. There was a piano in the room, and Prince taught himself to play, said Erickson.
He believes Prince's continuing religious odyssey is not a gimmick, but a search to find meaning in his remarkable, controversial life. "There are periods in people's lives when they sense the bottom, and reach out for something," Erickson said. "Prince has been doing this for years.
"I don't know [whether] he has many friends. That's the problem with his story. He's a musical genius, but just who is Prince? I don't think anyone knows."
Jon Tevlin is at email@example.com.