A head coach hugs his tournament most valuable player after winning a conference tournament. A jubilant embrace after clinching a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
However, this hug between head coach and MVP after Saturday’s Toyota Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament championship game at Houston’s Toyota Center was a little more emotional than others.
The embrace was between Jaguars head coach Roman Banks and guard Trelun Banks, the tournament’s MVP — and the son of the head coach. A hug that blurred the line between a coach happy to get his team to the Big Dance, and the emotion of a proud father watching his son achieve.
“The first 10 seconds was coach, and the next 10 seconds were daddy,” Roman Banks said. “So on a scale of one to 10, I’m going to call it 50-50, but 100 on both sides. I know what all he’s been through and the sacrifices and all of the challenges he’s had with me coaching him as well. I’m really proud of him.” [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B01B3BCXHM” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
The Jaguars take on Holy Cross in a Wednesday First Four game in Dayton, Ohio. The game tips at 5:40 p.m. and will be broadcast on truTV (AT&T U-Verse channel 1164, DirecTV channel 246, Dish Network channel 9430, Cox Communications channel 51/1051, Verizon Fios 683). The winner moves on to Spokane, Washington, to play West Region top seed Oregon Friday.
For the elder Banks, this moment wasn’t something he envisioned nearly 21 years ago when his son was born. As Roman grew as a coach from high school to the college ranks, Trelun began growing as a basketball player.
Banks took the Southern job in 2011 after eight seasons as an assistant at Southeastern Louisiana, and Trelun enrolled at nearby Scotlandville High — coached by his uncle, former Southern standout Carlos Sample. The younger Banks joined current Southern teammate Jared Sam and current Vanderbilt standout Damian Jones on a Scotlandville team that won back-to-back Class 5A state titles in 2012 and 2013.
However, Roman took a hands-off approach in giving his son critiques as a high school player. That approach has extended to Trelun’s development on The Bluff.
“His grandfather (Roman’s dad, former Southern standout Cleophus) is probably his biggest critic because I try to be his coach now,” he said. “At the end of the day, when he goes through some things, I try not to overreact. I look at from a coach’s perspective.”
While the younger Banks was basking in a second state championship and mulling over college choices, the elder Banks was leading the Jaguars in an upset bid over top-seeded Gonzaga in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Roman and the Jags were this close to being the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed, but lost 64-58 in Salt Lake City.
The offseason gave Roman mixed results — the signing of his son, and the NCAA banning Southern’s athletics program from postseason play due to the school providing unusable data for Academic Progress Rate calculations.
Some players left as a result of the sanctions. Others, like Trelun, Sam, All-SWAC selection Adrian Rodgers and point guard Christopher Hyder — one of Banks’ first signees — stayed through the sanctions with hopes of another shot at the Big Dance.
It was Trelun’s choice to play at Southern, Roman said. However, the sanctions looming over the athletics casted some doubt that the players he recruited after the near-upset of Gonzaga would have the chance to play in the postseason.
The chance was given in Spring 2015, when the NCAA lifted the postseason ban. The Jaguars made the most of the chance, defeating Jackson State 54-53 in the tournament final to earn the SWAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Trelun Banks led Southern with 19 points, and Rodgers’ tip-in with 15.9 seconds remaining was the game-winning basket.
“We’ve been fighting for it. It took us three years and now we’ve got this chance,” Roman said. “For him to have the opportunity, and then get the opportunity just like Hyder here … to get the opportunity is very rewarding because I felt they deserved it.
It’s not about me. It’s for those guys in the locker room with us. It’s for Southern University alumni.”
For the younger Banks, he said the win was not really about him. He had more-than-a-front-row-seat to the ups and downs of the program since his father took over.
“I wanted to get it done for him because I know what he’s been through in the past,” Trelun said. “I wanted to get it done for my seniors, C-Bo Hyder and Adrian Rodgers. I wanted to make sure they went out on a good note. I wanted it more for him than me.”
There is another tie that could potentially binds the Bankses. During his playing days at Northwestern State, Roman sank the game-winning free throw in a regular-season road upset of Kentucky in 1988. There may be a chance for the younger Banks to have a story like his father’s.
“When you have the ability, you have the team and you have the know-how in the room, you need to seize the moment,” Roman said. “I tell them all of the time, yesterday is not tomorrow, it’s right now.”
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