Former Bears star Banks earns a shot with the Mad Ants
NEW YORK -- Former Northern Colorado star Jabril Banks was spending time with his girlfriend Ashton in Denver last Thursday when his phone rang.
On the other end of the line was a representative from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, an NBA Developmental League team based just a little more than two hours north of Indianapolis. She was calling to let Banks know that the Ants had just selected him with a sixth-round pick in the 2011 NBA D-League draft.
Then Banks' phone rang again. This time, on the other end was his agent Charles Lamont Smith, congratulating him on the news.
Then another phone call came in.
And then another.
Those calls were from Ants coach Joey Meyer and team president Jeff Potter, who were introducing themselves and welcoming him to the team.
When his phone stopped buzzing, Banks was able to take a moment and let it all sink in. After spending two years after his Northern Colorado career with professional teams in Munich, Germany, and Casablanca, Morocco, Banks had finally drawn some interest from a team in the States, bringing him another step closer to his dream.
He'll head to Indiana this week to take part in Fort Wayne's training camp, which starts Friday, Nov. 11, and will consist of 17 players, including returning players, local tryout attendees and six 2011 draft picks.
The Ants will then pick 10 players for their opening-day roster to take the floor Friday, Nov. 25, against the Sioux Falls Skyforce at Fort Wayne's Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
The Mad Ants are an affiliate with the NBA's Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks.
"I'm just so excited to get out there and show what I can do," Banks said. "I'm hungry and focused. I know I've still got a lot of work to do. This doesn't mean I made the team; it just means I've got a great opportunity in front of me.
"I was coming home from the gym today and I just thought, 'Wow, I've been drafted, and I'm about to head out.'"
Banks, an All-Big Sky Conference First Team selection in March 2009, was the only Big Sky Conference player during the 2008-09 season to rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage.
He averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per conference game during his senior year and was instrumental in the Bears qualifying for their first Big Sky Men's Basketball Championship appearance. Northern Colorado lost to Idaho State in the conference quarterfinals that year, but Banks helped lay the groundwork for the Bears' school record for wins in 2010 and last year's historic run to the NCAA Tournament.
Banks was known at Northern Colorado for his incredible athleticism—his jaw-dropping dunks almost became passé—and he scored in double figures 23 times during his senior year and had four double-digit rebounding efforts.
"It's great to see Jabril get this opportunity because as good of a player as he is, he is even a better person," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "This has been a dream of his ever since I met him when we recruited him out of high school (at Indian Hills). Seeing him blossom here and knowing how hard he works and how bad he wanted this, I knew it was just a matter of time before he got his opportunity. I know he will do his best to take advantage of it."
Banks will join in Fort Wayne some familiar faces. Northern Arizona guard Cameron Jones, who joined the Bears' Devon Beitzel on last year's All-Big Sky Conference First Team, was the Ants' first-round pick last week, and Anthony Johnson, a guard from Montana who ended his career in 2010, was their second choice.
Banks played a little, but not much, with both during his junior and senior years in Greeley after transferring from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. But he said he knows what kind of player the Big Sky produces, and he's excited to be on their team.
He's also focused, though. Because for the next two weeks or so, Jones, Johnson and the rest of the players in Fort Wayne's camp are in the way of the next step in his career.
"The main thing about it is that when I heard that I thought, 'This is for real. Those guys can play, and now they're on my team,'" Banks said. "This is just what I've been working for. Just an opportunity, man. I'm real excited and blessed to have gotten that call [Thursday]. I'm going to head out and show them what I can do. That's all it is."