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Get to know James Banks: A Smart Texas Basketball Excerpt

The freshman big man has a role to play this season for Texas basketball.

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NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas vs Baylor Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The following post is an excerpt from Smart Texas Basketball 2016, available for preorder now from Amazon and iTunes.

By any measure, Shaka Smart had an excellent first full recruiting cycle at Texas. For example, the 2016 Longhorn freshman class is ranked fifth nationally by the 247 Composite index. And one of the first players signed in the class was 6’10 center James Banks.

As a senior in high school, Banks was the starting center for La Lumiere, a boarding school in La Porte, Indiana and one of the top high school teams in the nation. Playing for such a prominent high school program means that one can find unedited video of his team on the Internet. For example, here is a link to an entire game La Lumiere played against Prolific Prep, which was top Kansas recruit Josh Jackson’s team.

If you watch that game, you will notice that Banks isn’t really all that involved in the La Lumiere offense. His teammates hardly ever throw him the ball at all. While there is a lot of talent on his team, it is interesting that Banks — who was a high-major recruit — wasn’t involved much in trying to score. And on the occasion where he caught a pass more than a few feet away from the basket, he wasn’t looking to do anything beyond getting rid of the ball. While one might say that Banks’ offensive game is “raw,” we prefer the term “non-existent.”

So why was Banks a four-star prospect coming out of high school? It is because of what he does on the other end of the floor. Banks is big, and looks like he will be able to be a decent defender in the paint from the start of his freshman year. Aside from his height, he is built more solidly than Allen, and will likely hold up a little better against some of the more physical big men in the Big 12.

Banks joined Shaka Smart and Jarrett Allen at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Chile, but Banks played a far more limited role. Banks logged 39 minutes, appearing in four of five total games, and scored nine points. While Banks was quiet offensively, he did play well on defense, and did a nice job on the glass in limited minutes in Chile. His best game came in the semi-finals against Brazil, when in 14 minutes on the floor he grabbed nine rebounds and blocked five shots.

As a special treat for you, our reader, we have taken the trouble of working out tempo-free statistics for both Jarrett Allen and James Banks from the five games in Chile. It is special stuff like this that you can’t find anywhere else that caused you pay a couple of computer dorks $4.99 for a self-published basketball book.

The numbers more or less support our observations about Banks, although we do have to caution readers, as these numbers are based on a fairly small sample against a mixed level of competition. Canada, Brazil, and Puerto Rico were more capable opponents — though still overmatched — while the squad from the Virgin Islands looked like they were pulled straight out of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow’s Sunday morning CYO league.

Perhaps the most impressive numbers put up by Banks in Chile are his rebounding and shot blocking rates. Based on our estimates, Banks blocked about 18 percent of opponent two-point attempts while he was on the floor in Valdivia, and grabbed about one out of every five possible rebounds at both ends of the floor. These are excellent numbers that he won’t possibly put up against D-I competition, but a five to 10 percent shot blocking rate certainly seems like a reasonable projection for his freshman year.

Tempo-Free Statistics for Banks and Allen in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

Jarrett Allen James Banks
Percent of minutes played 60% 19%
Percent of team’s shots attempted while on the floor 23% 18%
Turnover rate 17% 37%
“True shooting percentage” 48% 34%
Offensive rebounding percentage 9% 20%
Defensive rebounding percentage 22% 17%
Block percentage 4% 18%

But Banks’ offensive limitations also show up in the numbers. His high turnover rate (which measures how many of the possessions that end with the ball in his hands result in turnovers) and his low true shooting percentage (a number that combines two-point shooting, three-point shooting, and free throws) are consistent with our comments about his limited offensive ability.

It is important that Texas fans have reasonable expectations for Banks in his first season in Austin. Right now, he looks like he will get a chance to back up Allen inside, and will be able to contribute on defense right away. But any offensive possessions where he is asked to do anything more than catch the ball and dunk will be an adventure.

Want to know what we think about Jarrett Allen and the rest of Texas’ incoming freshman class. You can read about it in Smart Texas Basketball 2016, available for preorder now from Amazon and iTunes.