Banks was ready when number was called

Being a freshman college basketball player can be one of the largest shocks to an athlete’s system. Months before, you were “the man” in your town and dreaming of how that was going to translate the following year, the leading scorer on your high school team and recently-committed to a program like VCU in the Atlantic 10. You wear your new gear and are the big shot with the bright future, only to get to campus (in a pandemic), to then find your spot on the depth chart, often not exactly where you want to find yourself in the pecking order.

This was the case of one Troy Daniels. The William Fleming grad was named Northwest Region Player of the Year his senior season in Roanoke, VA, having averaged 17 points per contest en route to a state tourney title appearance. Daniels went on to accept an offer from the then recently appointed VCU head coach, Shaka Smart.

He would total 284 minutes of playing time under Smart his first two years on Broad Street, the equivalent of just over seven complete games of action.

Daniels found himself behind an experienced group that included the likes of Brandon Rozzell, Ed Nixon and Bradford Burgess, a trio that would help lead VCU to an eventual Final 4 in 2011, but a group that also kept Daniels in warmups a good part of the early portion of his time at VCU due to their grasp on the positions Daniels would later found himself dominating.

“We treated Troy like s***”, Rozzell told Ram Nation of his old understudy. “That made him tougher. Going at him, Isaiah Grayson and Darius (Theus) every day made him tougher and he benefited from it and used that to his advantage throughout his career. One of the reasons he is one of the best shooters in VCU history.”

Daniels would go from averaging under seven minutes his first two seasons at VCU to over 24 his final two. He worked his way into a key part of VCU’s rotation, then later into the lineup for the likes of the  Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Pheonix Suns and LA Lakers.

Rozzell, one of VCU’s main three-point snipers before passing the baton to Daniels, could relate to the freshmen he admits to giving a hard time.

“I didn’t play at all the beginning of the season. Then Coach Grant redshirted me and when that happened I was heartbroken. It makes sense in retrospect, but for me at the time, I felt like I wasn’t good enough, as good as the rest of my recruiting class.”

But the tough kid from Richmond’s East End didn’t let that early experience defeat  him.

“I used the underdog mentality I had my whole life that I didn’t deserve to be where I was and it gave me the drive to be who I am.”

Brandon Rozzell scored 12 crucial points for VCU in the Rams’ 2011 Elite 8 victory over Kansas.

Rozzell would go on to become a key piece in VCU’s run to the Final 4 exactly 10 years ago, averaging 11.5 points his senior season. The confident sniper dumped a team-high 28 points on Georgetown during VCU’s run, the Rams’ and nation’s first sign of things to come that magical March. He scored 12 points in the VCU’s upset win over top-seeded Kansas.

This season, back in the tournament once again, Rozzell says he can relate to one current young Ram: freshman Josh Banks.

“Love Josh Banks. He reminds me a lot of myself.”

Like Rozzell before him, the freshman from Charlotte saw a lot of bench time early, only to be ready when his number was called. VCU’s 6’5 shooting guard played sparingly early, buried on the depth chart behind A-10 Player of the Year, Bones Hyland, as well as junior wing, KeShawn Curry.

Banks averaged 10.1 minutes in non-conference play, picking up most of his PT in blowout wins over the likes  of  NC A&T, Western Carolina, ODU and Mount St. Mary’s, only to see himself shelved for most of Atlantic 10 play. But with the departure of sophomore, Tre Clark and the absence of KeShawn Curry, Banks has all of a sudden found daylight in the depth chart.

Without Hyland in VCU’s lineup due to injury, Banks saw a then career-high 20 minutes against Saint Louis. The lanky shooter went 3-5 from the field and hit a career-high at the time seven points in the surprise victory over the A-10’s preseason No.2, a two-point W that played a massive part in the Rams punching their ticket via at-large bid to this week’s NCAA Tournament.

Banks would play over 20 minutes in three of VCU’s final five contests, averaging 6.2 points in his 13.2-minute average over that stretch. He shot 9-10 inside the arc and posted a beyond red-hot 83.2% true shooting percentage, making the previously little-played Banks all of a sudden a very key piece to VCU’s strong finish that helped put their name in this year’s bracket.

Banks will get another shot to show some of what he’s capable of this week in Indianapolis as the Rams take on Oregon this Saturday evening. Ram fans will hope that’s not his only shot remaining this season as well.

Regardless, the VCU freshman’s best work is no doubt still ahead of him, but for this year at least, Banks stayed ready for when his number was called when lesser players perhaps might have crumbled. And that’s a mentality that should have Ram fans very excited about his future.


A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...