Back in April, Georgia Tech center James Banks made a seemingly curious decision about his basketball future.
On April 23, a day after he had announced that he was applying to be considered for the NBA draft, he withdrew his name from consideration. Going through the draft-evaluation process is considered a no-lose proposition — prospects can try out with NBA teams, get feedback from talent evaluators and, if there’s not much of getting drafted, return back to college with no penalty.
But Banks chose not to give himself the chance, and he explained the story on Tuesday, as the team prepared for its trip to Spain for four exhibition games. When Banks’ submitted the paperwork, he neglected to put an electronic signature on the draft document. When the NBA reached out to Tech to point out the missing signature, the deadline to enter had passed, but Banks said that the league told him that it would make an exception for him.
Banks said no thanks. Having already been unsure about whether he wanted to declare for the draft, he said the omission was a sign.
“I was like, all right, I don’t need to dabble in this,” Banks said. “I need to focus on being here, being all in with my team, having the best senior season I can to just put myself in the position to be there next year where it’s no questions, where everybody knows where I am at, where my name’s on draft boards and where it’s a possibility to make money.”
Banks spoke with confidence about the progress he has made this summer, both on the practice court and in the weight room.
“Honestly, I’ve been focusing on increasing my offensive game, continuing to get my body in a place where I can dominate this season,” Banks said. “Keep up with the physicality of the ACC and be able to do some good things this year.”
Banks said that he is better conditioned and more explosive and has also focused on his core strength. On the court, he has worked on shots with his left (opposite) hand and also extended his range. Banks’ hope is to develop a shot from the elbow and beyond that defenses will have to honor, which will open up lanes for teammates cutting to the basket.
“Because last year, we had some games where guys would play off me and people were able to put that in their game plan in defeating us,” Banks said. “So they’re not going to respect me, I’m going to be able to make them pay this year, and that makes the offense run a lot more smoothly.”
Last season, Banks averaged 10.5 points per game on 56.4 % shooting from the field with 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks — pretty good numbers considering that he came off the bench for Texas for his first two seasons before transferring to Tech in May of 2018.
Coach Josh Pastner’s constant urging to Banks has been to become more consistent. In 18 ACC regular-season games, he scored five or fewer points in five of them, all losses for the Yellow Jackets. Tech was 5-3 in ACC games when he scored 15 or more.
“He should be a double-double type guy or darn near it every time he plays,” Pastner said. “And obviously, he’s the leading shot blocker returning (in the ACC), so he’s got to be a great shot blocker.”
Averaging a double-double would put Banks in solid position to be named All-ACC and likely earn him a long look from the NBA. He’ll likely have plenty of minutes to compile the statistics. Tech doesn’t have a true post player to back up Banks. Evan Cole and Moses Wright are the likely candidates to sub for him.
Banks acknowledged that he’ll need to be better conditioned, but expressed his trust in Cole and Wright. Banks said that “I think they’ll surprise a lot of people when it comes to production.”
Banks, following a sign that guided him back to Tech for his senior season, may surprise people, as well.
“This is my senior year,” Banks said. “I want to win games, and to win games, I have to be good. I have to be better than I was last year.”
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