Back in September, when Tre’Lun Banks made his official recruiting visit to Southern, the college basketball prospect from Scotlandville High School enjoyed dinner with the SU coaching staff.
He toured the campus. He met with officials from the athletic department. He tailgated. He went to a football game — all the things any prospective Southern player would do.
Coach Roman Banks recruited the young point guard as thoroughly as any other recruit — never influenced by the fact that, when the recruiting visit ended, Tre’Lun would return home with his father and resume his existence as the coach’s son.
“I felt like it was something we couldn’t take for granted,” Roman said. “Even though he was in my house, he had to know that Southern was after him just like everybody else.”
Months after the official visit, on the first day of college basketball’s spring signing period, Tre’Lun donned a Southern hat as he announced that he would continue his playing career in his father’s program. Roman vows that he will coach his son the same way he recruited him.
Off the court, the incoming freshman will remain the apple of his father’s eye. On the court, he will be treated like any other youngster in Columbia blue.
“When we’re on the court, it’s not necessarily father-son,” Roman said. “It’s player-coach. My mindset is that he’s like anybody else. If he does well, I’m able to give him a high-five. If he does bad, I’m able to get up in his face.”
Tre’Lun said he would want it no other way.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s just me going through it and doing the things it takes to succeed. It might be a little harder than if I had gone anywhere else. I knew that coming in.”
Tre’Lun, who’s 6-foot-1, showed enough promise in helping Scotlandville to back-to-back Class 5A state titles that the idea of him following his father to Southern wasn’t a foregone conclusion. South Alabama, Texas-El Paso and Murray State recruited him, as well as several mid-major programs in Louisiana.
Coaches routinely phoned the Southern basketball office to tell Roman they were interested in his son and ask for his blessing in recruiting him. One or two even visited the Banks home and sat down with the prospect and his father to sell them on their program.
“I think he knows his dad can be a booger bear,” said Tiffaney Banks, Tre’Lun’s mother. “He could have easily said, ‘I don’t want any part of that.’ I think out of all the places he could have gone, the fact that he chose to stay and play for his dad is a beautiful thing.”
Tiffaney said the family allowed Tre’Lun the freedom to make his own decision, but she wasn’t surprised her son chose the head of their household as his future coach.
She watched her husband stay up late with her son, night after night, breaking down film of Scotlandville games. She listened to their conversations.
Rather than shopping with his mom, Tre’Lun always preferred a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings with his father. When he described their relationship, Tre’Lun said Roman has often felt more like a brother than his dad.
“Sometimes I get jealous of their relationship,” Tiffaney said.
Tre’Lun isn’t a carbon copy of his father. Consider the son’s collection of exotic pets — snakes, iguanas, lizards. It’s little wonder he hopes to work as a veterinarian.
But when it comes to basketball, the coach and the kid are seemingly one and the same.
For anyone who missed Roman Banks’ career as a point guard for Northwestern State from 1987-92, the coach has a simple answer when asked what kind of player he was: He says to watch his son play.
But the legacy Tre’Lun will continue this fall stretches all the way to his grandfather — Cleophus Banks starred as a point guard for Southern in the 1960s. And Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample, another former Southern point guard, is Tre’Lun’s uncle.
So it’s no surprise Tre’Lun, his game molded by a family of basketball men with point guard bloodlines, is often described by those who have coached him as a coach on the floor.
“You’re always going to have an advantage — not skill-wise, but just knowing the game,” Tre’Lun said. “Just growing up around the game, that’s a major plus.”
Sample expects his nephew to make an immediate impact on the college level.
“He was probably the overall MVP of our team,” he said. “Had it not been for him, we wouldn’t have gone that far.”
It would seem Tre’Lun is beginning his Southern career at just the right time. Roman received a contract extension this spring after leading the Jaguars to the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship and a scare of No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He has cleared the program of the academic-related hurdles he inherited in 2011 and, for the first time in his Southern tenure, he will have a full complement of scholarships this season.
Tre’Lun has a chance to help Southern basketball take the next step.
“I feel that we should win the SWAC every year I’m here — every year,” he said. “And not just get to the (NCAA) tournament, but win games in the tournament.”
Roman said Southern’s success this past season made it easier to woo his son.
“He’s a player we overachieved and got,” Banks said. “He’s one of the players we wouldn’t have gotten in the past. They’d look beyond Southern. We look at it as if we were able to get a steal.”
He spoke as Tre’Lun’s future coach — not his father.