Only Charleston Southern knows how its scouting reports for James Madison look. But there’s a pretty good chance the report on Darius Banks contains the following message scrawled on top of the page:
DOES NOT HAVE BACK-TO-BACK BAD GAMES
Banks will take the floor for the first time in 12 days tonight, when he and the rest of his James Madison teammates return from a break for exams to host Charleston Southern. And if history is any indication, the Buccaneers will have to deal with a proficient Banks eager to maintain a career-long trend of bouncing back immediately from a subpar performance.
Banks went into the break off a five-point game against Radford in which he was 1-of-9 from the field — including 1-of-7 from 3-point land — in a 94-71 loss to the Highlanders. It snapped a streak of four straight 20-point games for the junior guard and marked the eighth time in his career has made one field goal or less while hoisting at least six attempts.
Banks is shooting just 10.8 percent (7-for-65) in those eight games. But in the game immediately following his first seven such efforts, Banks shot 45 percent (32-of-710 while averaging 13.7 points. Those games include the first two 20-point performances of his career against Elon on Jan. 18, 2018 and Delaware on Feb. 24, 2018.
The Dukes are finally BACK!— JMU Men's Basketball (@JMUMBasketball) December 15, 2019
JMU welcomes Charleston Southern to Harrisonburg for the first time since 1986 on Monday night - make sure you’re there for tipoff at 7pm!
📰 | https://t.co/EuRAlxS8jh#GoDukes pic.twitter.com/iYj0WvUs46
“It’s just me moving on to the next game,” Banks said. “My teammates encourage me. Every shot’s not going to go in, but when it does, you’re hot.”
Indeed, even with a handful of hiccups last season, Banks set the program record for highest 3-point percentage (49.3 percent on 37-of-75 shooting) while finishing third on the Dukes in scoring (12.3 points per game) and second in rebounding (5.0 per game).
“We have a bad game, we flush it away, it’s one to the next game,” James Madison head coach Louis Rowe said. “I hope he’s aggressive offensively. To put a number on how many points he’s going to score, (he’s not going to) do that. But I expect him to lead the charge for us bouncing back and being more solid on Monday night.”
Rowe recognized Banks’ versatility and leadership potential even before he became the Dukes’ head coach following the 2015-16 season. Both Rowe and Banks grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Rowe has known Banks since the latter was a high school freshman.
“Thought he was a really tremendous talent,” Rowe said. “But also knowing his family and his foundation — just honestly a great, tremendous kid — and I thought going into my first year as a head coach, the focus on that first class, I felt like he could be a cornerstone. I felt that first class should be a cornerstone for who we want to build around. He had some athleticism, obviously, but we also (wanted) culture kids. And he’s absolutely been a culture kid for us.”
Banks missed much of his senior season at St. Petersburg High School due to a high ankle sprain but still finished his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with more than 2,000 points. He also displayed a big guard skill set that Rowe realized would translate well to the fast-paced CAA.
“Literally, that was the plan for him, to be able to play all of the guard positions,” Rowe said. “We knew that he had the (potential) to be one of those type of players to be an all-league type, a combo guard who could play multiple positions and do a lot of different things.”
Banks has four career double-doubles — James Madison’s only loss in those games was a 76-67 loss to top-seeded Hofstra in the CAA quarterfinals last March — and has scored at least 20 points 12 times, games in which the Dukes have gone 9-3.
“My Mom always told me: The more stats you stuff, the better (your) value is to everybody on the court and on the team,” Banks said.
Darius Banks gets some space and helps Matt Lewis pick up his 10th assist of the afternoon! That's Matt's third double-double of the year and his first career 10-assist game!#GoDukes pic.twitter.com/ZPvtDmWBIa— JMU Men's Basketball (@JMUMBasketball) November 30, 2019
While Banks scuffled offensively against Radford, he and Rowe were far more concerned with the team-wide defensive struggles that were magnified by the lopsided loss. According to KenPom.com, James Madison enters tonight allowing the seventh-most possessions per 40 minutes (76.8) while averaging 107.1 points per 40 possessions, which ranks 320th in the nation and last in the CAA.
The defensive woes are the biggest reason the Dukes have gone from one of five teams to receive first-place votes in the preseason poll to the outside looking in on a top six separated by just 25 spots at KenPom.com's efficiency rankings.
Banks said the exam week practices were “very defensive-minded” as the Dukes prepared not only for Charleston Southern but also a CAA opener that’s now just 12 days away.
“We went back to year one and year two, some of those defensive drills,” Rowe said. “It’s been pretty cool. I have an unbelievably team, and that stars with ‘DB.’ He is absolutely our leader. He and (fellow junior) Matt (Lewis) were the guys I started this My first recruiting visit was Matt, ‘DB’ and Dwight Wilson. Those guys were literally saying ‘We’re gonna get back to just hard-nosed defense.’”
And if the shots happen to fall as well?
“I’m ready — I’m ready right now,” Banks said.