Banks to make varsity Pats debut

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Senior Cameron Banks gets ready to make a pass Wednesday in practice at Heritage Hills. Banks is set to make his varsity debut for the team today against Pike Central. He previously played at Evansville Central before transferring over to Heritage Hills.


LINCOLN CITY — The last time Cameron Banks played in a Heritage Hills varsity basketball game was on Dec. 7, 2019. The Patriots came away with an 89-59 win, and Banks scored 19 points in the game.

Here’s the twist, though — Banks wasn’t a member of the Pats in that game. He played for the Bears and his 19 points were a team-high. It would be the penultimate game Banks would ever play at Central, as his last game as a Bear came three days later in a 63-56 loss to Vincennes Lincoln.

Banks transferred to Heritage Hills not long after that, with his first day of school coming Jan. 15, 2020. He could practice with his new team, and he’s been able to compete in junior varsity prior to today, but the transfer rendered him ineligible for varsity competition for one year.

He had to watch his new team compete in games without him, and they won a sectional championship for the first time since 2003. It wasn’t easy for him that he couldn’t be out there on the floor to help the Pats bring the hardware back to Lincoln City.

“It was pretty tough just watching them play out there — wishing I could be out there, but I was happy for them and I was happy that we got to win a sectional championship,” Banks said.

Now, though, exactly one year after his first day at Heritage Hills, the senior will not only get to watch his team’s varsity games, but play in them, too. Banks is set to make his Heritage Hills varsity debut Friday at home against Pocket Athletic Conference rival Pike Central, and he’ll be in the mix for a team that is currently 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 3A.

Banks took a walk down memory lane after Wednesday’s practice when he saw some video highlights of him playing against the Pats while he was at Central.

“It just makes me miss playing basketball,” he said upon watching the highlights.

“I think that some of the things that you see here in this is exactly what we’ve seen here for the last year — a guy that can step out, he can hit shots,” Heritage Hills coach Nate Hawkins said. “The best parts of his game is the way that he can just attack off the bounce. When he’s coming, he’s so strong — so strong, and he’s even so much stronger than he was whenever he played back there against us.”

Banks jumped out early in that game, with 14 of his 19 points coming in the first half against the Pats.

“In the first half, they played me straight up man, and in the second half, they came out and they pressed us," he said. "That’s what caused us to go downhill from there."

Hawkins isn’t sure that he’s ever coached a player that he previously coached against, but he’s excited for Banks and excited to see what he can do for the Pats. Banks is likely to come off the bench for the Pats when they take on the Chargers, and Hawkins expects him to be a facilitator. The Pats anticipate that Banks will make shots and get to the rim, but the fifth-year Heritage Hills coach hailed Banks for his passing skills, too.

He likened it to when Banks’ fellow senior Jake Johnson in complemented Simon Scherry last year and saw it as the Pats having two point guards on their sectional championship team. Hawkins told the Herald that Heritage Hills can have Banks play the one if Johnson needs a break, though Banks will mostly play on the wings.

The Pats have been undefeated and ranked the top team in their class without Banks up to this point — but Hawkins doesn’t see incorporating somebody new into the fray as being a problem.

“Cam’s been here,” Hawkins said. “He’s been here, he’s practiced with these guys, he’s got to know these guys. And all he knows is that he’s got to play hard every single day. So, when he gets out there — he plays hard. He doesn’t try to overshadow anybody else. He just wants to play basketball, that’s the biggest thing.”

Banks likes to see himself as a good passer and good defender who can score when needed to, and he can spot up and shoot. He also enjoys catching the basketball off the dribble and shooting it, and taking people off the dribble to drive in.

He said the Pats see their No. 1 ranking as motivation to keep going and work harder because they still have a lot of things to work on and improve. Banks believes he will bring hard work to the team, along with pushing the ball in transition, playing defense and scoring when he has the ball.

Banks may be part of a new situation as he will officially get to play for the top-ranked 3A team in the state that is currently undefeated, but it’s not Hawkins’ first go-round in this regard. Hawkins remembers the 2010-11 Forest Park team that was ranked No. 1 in its class and was 25-0 until it lost to the eventual Class 2A state champions, Park Tudor, in semi-state.

Hawkins sees the similarities between that year’s Rangers and this year’s Pats because both teams had depth, length on the floor and both teams were very good defensively.

“That team, had it not been for this guy that’s in the NBA now by the name of Yogi Ferrell, they probably win a state championship,” Hawkins said.

He knows how special last year’s Heritage Hills team was, and it still hurts that the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the remainder of the boys basketball tournament — preventing that team’s goal of winning a state championship. It helps that the Pats have now added Banks, and Hawkins said his players believe they’re an even deeper team than they were a season ago. He didn’t rule out that Banks could be the missing piece to this team.

Banks has more than a month of regular season action to play as a member of the Pats before the team is set to compete in the postseason, but no matter how far they go this year, Banks’ basketball playing days are unlikely to end anytime soon because he’s looking at continuing his career at the next level. He’s talked to different programs, such as Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Morehead State University, among others.

As for now, though, he’ll try to give the Pats their fourth PAC win of the season and their 25th consecutive win overall. He knows how happy he will be when he takes the floor for the first time in varsity competition as a Patriot, and there’s no doubt in his mind how ready he is.

“I say I’m 100 percent ready,” Banks said.

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