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March 4, 2011 > Sights set on a professional career

Sights set on a professional career

By Simon Wong
Photo by Simon Wong

Lamont Banks Jr. is a young man with a single-minded determination to excel at everything he does - academics, personal health and fitness and basketball. Banks, 15, stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 215 pounds.

Hayward-born and bred, Banks first picked up a basketball when he was in the third grade, played for fun with some friends and found he enjoyed the sport. Adults noticed his flair and coaches and family began nurturing his talent; he started playing in National Junior Basketball leagues when he was in the fourth grade. There is a big difference between then and now. He knows more about the game; has honed his skills; and adheres to a strict regimen.

After the NJB, he progressed to Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) competitions, joining Alameda-based North Coast Express when he was 10, moving to Bay Area Magic in Richmond a year later, then joined Walnut Creek-based Bay Area Elite when he was almost 13, where he was coached by Al Attles III, the father of recent Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Al Attles Jr. Most recently, Banks has played varsity for the Hayward-based Dream Team.

His dedication and hard work have taken him to national tournaments in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oregon, Texas, Chicago and many other venues, where his teams have earned first-place titles, and brought great exposure. While with Bay Area Elite, he was drafted to play one game for the Dream Team which was short a player at the time; as a result, the University of Southern California invited him to apply after he scored 18 points, not realizing he was only 13.

Banks attended Fairview Elementary and Bret Harte Middle schools in Hayward before his parents decided on home-schooling which provides one-on-one tuition and the flexibility for the necessary training to perform as an athlete.

His immediate ambition is to attend a college-preparatory high school with high academic standards and a good basketball program. He understands the importance of a solid educational foundation on which to build throughout his life and points to the benefits of a small student body and a low teacher-student ratio.

Ultimately, he wishes to play basketball professionally but, at this stage, has no particular team preference. Formerly, it was possible to turn professional out of high school. Today, professional teams require players to have attended college for at least a year. Additionally, college scouts seldom attend high school games preferring to spot players at AAU tournaments; in turn, scouts for professional teams recruit from colleges.

Banks started training seriously when he was 11 and now trains for six hours daily - basketball skills in the morning, followed by a break, then repeat training, before traveling to Walnut Creek for plyometrics (a jump-training exercise designed to bridge the gap between strength and speed) and court training. Weights are not part of his program. Banks relies on his own body weight to develop agility. His diet consists of fruits, vegetables, baked chicken, low-calorie multi-seasoning, salads, protein shakes and vitamins. Although he laments the absence of strong flavors, he remains disciplined.

"To succeed, pick a regimen and stick to it. Be focused," encourages Banks who played football briefly in sixth and seventh grade. "I'm lucky to have family and people around me who are supportive and have given me the opportunities to do something positive and continue on that path. I help my younger brothers with their basketball skills and plan to coach other kids in the future."

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