Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer preview this weekend's state basketball tournament. They disagree on whether Eldorado or Sierra Vista will win the play-in game, but see the same outcome regardless.
Freddie Banks doesn’t hesitate responding when asked who is the best high school basketball player to come out of Las Vegas.
Banks smoothly answers the question with the same confidence he displayed in taking a crucial shot with the game on the line.
“Freddie Banks, that is who is the best,” said Banks, who enjoyed a storied career at Valley High in the early 1980s before becoming one of UNLV’s all-time greats.
He earned the right to talk about himself in the third person one unforgettable night in the March of 1987, when he seemingly couldn’t miss in knocking down 3-pointers left and right against Indiana in the Final Four. He finished with 38 points, setting a NCAA Tournament record for 3-pointers in a game with 10.
It was the kind of performance that seems only possible on video games. But for Banks, it’s the type of accurate shooting he’s been known for since his days at Valley.
Banks won three state championships at Valley in becoming — as Banks confirms — one of best Las Vegas has seen. He will be honored Thursday by being one of nine inducted into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Orleans Arena.
Banks was a local legend long before his Final Four heroics. He legacy was cemented by simply deciding to come to UNLV, turning down offers from schools such as Nebraska and Iowa to play for his hometown university.
Now, it is time for UNLV to return the favor. Banks needs to have his jersey No. 13 retired. It’s an honor reserved for the best of the best, and without a doubt that is ‘Fearless’ Freddie.
“That would definitely be the icing on the cake for my career if I could get my jersey retired,” said Banks, who is an assistant coach at Canyon Springs, one of the four teams playing in this week’s state tournament at the Orleans.
“That is the only left for me to do is to get my jersey up there in the rafters where it belongs with the others.”
With UNLV actively recruiting highly touted prospects Rosco Allen, Ben Carter and Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman, and desperate to land at least one of the talented trio, it would make sense to honor Banks. After all, he did what the Rebels coaches are asking of the top local talent: stay at home to play at UNLV and thrive in the hometown scarlet and gray.
“It’s going to take one of those big-name kids to commit to staying home like I did and the rest will follow,” Banks said.
Banks’ numbers at UNLV — he ranks fourth all-time with 2,007 points, holds the school record for 3-pointers in a season with 152 and is second all time in career 3-pointers with 229 — certainly merit having his jersey retired. The impact of paying tribute to a local legend makes the decision a no-brainer for UNLV.
“This is where he is from. This is where he grew up. It’s his town,” Canyon Springs coach Daryl Brahnam said. “He is probably the best player to have come out of Vegas. Regardless of who you talk to, and I’ve talked to some of the older guys who have been around a lot time, they says Freddie is a legend. I wish I would have been around to watch him in high school.”
Banks, who is already part of the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame and Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, is continuing his legacy on the hardwood through coaching. He’s been at Canyon Springs since the school opened seven years ago and deserves significant credit for the Pioneers winning three of the last five Sunrise Regional titles.
His passion for the game is contagious with the players and his knowledge of what it takes to win (he was 90-8 in three years at Valley) has clearly rubbed off on others in the program. And at 45-years-old, Banks still makes nothing-but-net 3-pointers look like a layup drill.
“We can talk to coach about anything — girls, school or basketball,” Canyon Springs senior post player Chris Willis said. “He doesn’t mind doing the dirty work to help us be successful. There is something about him that is extraordinary. It is crazy.”
What’s also crazy is that Banks No. 13 isn’t hanging at the Thomas & Mack Center. He’s right — it’s the only accomplishment that’s missing.