Forty years later, Georgia basketball player James Banks is still in the game

But most of Banks’ baby-faced students had no idea of ​​the size in their presence.

“Some of them do,” Banks said with a chuckle. “If they don’t, their grandparents will. I heard one of them say, ‘My grandfather said he was pretty good!’”

Pretty good indeed. But it is, only different. Teaching young children to play has been a passion for Banks since he retired from professional basketball 24 years ago.

He was the head coach of the Athens Academy boys team for 11 years. Now he has swapped roles with his former assistant coach Brian Olson to serve as an assistant coach for the school’s girls’ team. During the day he teaches physical education for grades 2-8.

Meanwhile, Banks has been holding the same annual basketball camp he did this week at the Beech Haven Baptist Church in Athens. Simply called James Banks Basketball Camp, it is for boys and girls in grades 3-8 and has an intense focus on fundamentals.

“I like it,” Banks said of that particular age group. “I feel like you have a greater impact on their fundamentals and really learn the nuances of the game. I’m really enjoying it and kinda immersed in it. If they learn it well at that age, then it will stick with them.”

Strong fundamentals were the cornerstone of Banks’ game when he played for the Bulldogs. Banks, who was in coach Hugh Durham’s starting XI for four years from 1980 to 1984, averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds over four seasons. He was the second-best scorer behind Vern Fleming on that team of 83, with 14 points before the game.

Banks’ skills literally took him around the world. After being drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984, Banks played in the European leagues for 14 years. Overseas, Banks and his wife Melanie were just days away from welcoming a child into the world, but were able to make it to the United States before their daughter Jamella was born.

In an interesting twist, it was Jamella who put Banks in touch with Mike White, Georgia’s recently hired basketball coach. Banks didn’t meet White in person until his inaugural press conference at the Stegeman Coliseum in March, but Jamella had told her father all about him while she was a student at the University of Florida. She worked as a student in the Gators’ athletic department.

“She’s known (White) for a while,” Banks said of his daughter, who is now an academic advisor in Elon University’s athletics department. “She actually called me that Sunday and told me we were hiring him.”

Banks remains a regular at Georgia basketball games and a staunch supporter of whoever happens to coach the Bulldogs. White is the seventh manager at the helm since Banks left as a player.

No, Banks said he was never really interested in coaching at that level or getting involved in highly competitive AAU leagues that cater to Georgia and similar programs.

He prefers to do what he did Wednesday: sort donated prizes to give to winners of ongoing shooting, layup, free throw and knockout competitions.

“We work on the basics for about an hour and a half a day, then I let them play games,” Banks said. “You get rewards. Everyone gets something.”

Whether the kids realize it, their greatest reward is the old man who coaches them.

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