How genebanks paved the way for Duke's stars – The Undefeated


Long before Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett stormed college basketball, and even before coach Mike Krzyzewski started to hit Duke's bench, there was Gene Banks.

In the spring of 1977, Banks became the first McDonald's All American to sign with Duke, creating a legacy that propelled the university to the forefront of academic progress.

To date, no college has signed more McDonald's All Americans than Duke. The commitments of high hopes from Vernon Carey Jr. and Wendell Moore Jr. this season would give Duke a total of 78 McDonald's All Americans in 42 years.

While the current stars of Duke rock the nation, Banks first helped to place Duke on the map.

"I had the opportunity to coach Gene in his senior senior year," said Krzyzewski. "I knew for him when Duke recruited him. It was one of the moments in the history of Duke basketball that changed the program and helped change our school.

Duke's Gene Banks clash with North Carolina at the Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. In 1977, Banks became the first McDonald's All American to sign with the Blue Devils.

Duke University / College Images / Getty Images

There were no screening services or mixtapes when Banks was playing. Word of mouth and a mention in Street & Smith's helped players develop a reputation and a mystique.

Nicknamed "Tinkerbell", Banks could dominate both inside and outside. He played with high IQ and intensity. And he attended a meeting at West Philadelphia High School.

"Everyone wanted to see Gene. He was the best, "said Darryl Warwick, the team's playmaker who went by the nickname" City Lights. "

During the 1970s, it was common, especially around Banks High School, to see gang conflicts. The young people were fighting and fighting with their fists or a knife. There would be shots on occasion, although nothing looks like what we see today. But a tacit truce would be observed for a day at each performance of the Speedboys.

"Gang members came to tell me that they would not fight out of respect for what we were doing," Banks said. "And these brothers were serious. Every day they were fighting, but not when we played. "

"Gene could talk about anything to anyone," said Joe Goldenberg, retired coach of West Philadelphia High School. "He was great with people. That's what made it special. "

In 1977, Banks was named to the first American McDonald's team, which also included Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Albert King, Wayne McKoy, Jeff Ruland, Darnell Valentine and Al Wood. Banks was considered the best of the best.

Although there was no McDonald's game in 1977, the team was featured at the Capital Classic in Washington, DC, against a local all-star team. Banks showed why he was considered the best preparation player in the country. He scored 22 points, a high point in the game, and led the McDonald's team to a 112-92 win, winning the MVP of the game.

"I was proud to be a McDonald's All American," Banks said. "I was excited to play with the best players in the country. It meant a lot to me. "

Banks had options to play collegially. UCLA has been considered. The same was true of the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova, two schools close to Banks' home.

Banks said that it was his English teacher at West Philly, William H. Deadwyler Jr., who had suggested Duke. "The only thing I knew from the [Atlantic Coast Conference] was David Thompson, "said Banks. "I saw it on TV. And of course I saw [North] Carolina.

"[Deadwyler] I kept hammering about academics and beautiful buildings. To get it off my back, I chose to go there [for a visit]. "

In the end, it was a dream that drove Duke to the top of his list. One day, Banks followed his mother's advice, entered his room, closed the door, and prayed. In a dream, Banks said to be seen wearing Duke 's blue and white uniform.

His decision to attend Duke was a surprise to others.

"The only thing I knew about Duke was that it was in the CAC and North Carolina," said Clarence "Eggy" Tillman, Banks' second in the field, at West Philadelphia High. "I was very happy for him. I knew it was a very big decision he was thinking about. "

While North Carolina and the state of North Carolina were successful in recruiting African-American players, Duke was behind the trend. C.B. Claiborne was the first black basketball player in Duke. He arrived in 1965 with an "aid grant" and played in the university team from 1967 to 1969.

Duke's Gene Banks (left) is stripped of the ball by John Virgil (right) of North Carolina while Banks was about to take a break for a quick break. North Carolina then defeated Duke, 87-83, to win the regular season championship of ACC on February 25, 1978 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

AP Photo / Bryson Lewis

Don Blackman was the first African-American Duke player to benefit from a scholarship in basketball. He arrived in 1968 and was part of the university team in 1970, but was eventually transferred. Willie Hodge, Edgar Burch, Rick Gomez, George Moses, Ken Young and Harold Morrison all played in the Duke University team before Banks and starting goaltender John Harrell, transferred from North Carolina Central, entered school. in September 1977.

"There were not many blacks [on campus]but it was a small, large group of blacks, "said Banks, who graduated with a degree in history and delivered the opening speech at the graduation ceremony. "I had to reach for others of my race [to achieve]. "

In 1978, Banks was named ACC 's Rookie of the Year and helped Duke reach the NCAA championship game. His aggressive and instinctive play helped change the image of Duke basketball. He did things on the field that we had never seen before at the Cameron Indoor Stadium. He was the first freshman Duke to record a triple-double.

During his career as a duke, hHe averaged 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, won the first team honors as well as the senior team and the second team honors his first three seasons and has been twice American. He was also voted MVP of the team three times.

Banks, who played six seasons in the NBA and was an assistant coach for three seasons with the Washington Wizards, started a trend at Duke.

"Gene has been a terrific player and one of the most important personalities in the history of Duke basketball," said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker, a former US player from McDonald's All who starred in Duke. "He helped energize and transform the Duke program through his commitment and his decision to go."

Banks continues to keep pace with the Blue Devils and remains an ardent supporter.

"It's a different time now," said Banks, who was recently named basketball director for Olympia Sports Camp in Muskoka, Ont. "When I'm around them when I attend a few games, I feel welcome. It's home and I'm a big part of what Duke University has become. I realize that. Of course, I am much closer to the elderly [past] players, but the younger ones respect me. I agree with that.

"They have a lot of talent. Coach K played these guys very well and as a team. They have the opportunity to have a fantastic season. It could be very special. "

Banks, meanwhile, appreciates his special place in the history of Duke.

"When you go through it, you do not think about writing history or being a pioneer," Banks said. "I wanted to go to Duke and I wanted to make a difference."

He did.

Player Year named McDonald & # 39; s All American
Banks, Gene 1977
Taylor, Vince 1978
Dawkins, Johnny 1982
Amaker, Tommy 1983
Nessley, Martin 1983
Ferry, Danny 1985
Snyder, Quin 1985
Abdelnaby, Alaa 1986
Henderson, Phil 1986
Koubek, Greg 1987
Laettner, Christian 1988
Palmer, Crawford 1988
Hurley, Bobby 1989
McCaffrey, Bill 1989
Hill, Grant 1990
Parks, Cherokee 1991
Collins, Chris 1992
Beard, Joey 1993
Langdon, Trajan 1994
Price, Ricky 1994
Wojciechowski, Steve 1994
Domzalski, Taymon 1995
James, Nate 1996
Battier, Shane 1997
Brand Elton 1997
Burgess, Chris 1997
Maggette, Corey 1998
Boozer, Jr., Carlos 1999
Dunleavy, Jr., Michael 1999
Sanders, Casey 1999
Williams, Jay 1999
Duhon, Chris 2000
Ewing, Daniel 2001
Dockery, Sean 2002
Randolph, Shavlik 2002
Redick, J.J. 2002
Thompson, Michael 2002
Deng, Luol 2003
Nelson, DeMarcus 2004
Boateng, Eric 2005
McRoberts, Josh 2005
Paulus, Greg 2005
Henderson, Gerald 2006
Scheyer, Jonathan 2006
Thomas, Lance 2006
King, Taylor 2007
Singler, Kyle 2007
Smith, Nolan 2007
Williams, Elliot 2008
Kelly, Ryan 2009
Plumlee, mason 2009
Irving, Kyrie 2010
Cook, Quinn 2011
Plumlee, Marshall 2011
Rivers, Austin 2011
Jefferson, Amile 2012
Sulaimon, Rasheed 2012
Jones, Matt 2013
Parker, Jabari 2013
Allen, Grayson 2014
Jones, Tyus 2014
Okafor, Jahlil 2014
Winslow, Justise 2014
Ingram, Brandon X. 2015
Throw Chase 2015
Kennard, Luke 2015
Bolden, Brands 2016
Jackson, Frank 2016
Tatum, Jayson 2016
Carter, Jr., Wendell 2017
Duval, Trevon 2017
Trent, Jr., Gary 2017
Barrett, RJ 2018
Jones, Tre 2018
Reddish, Cameron 2018
Williamson, Sion 2018

Daryl Bell is associate editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune. A seasoned journalist, he has covered all major sports and many minor sports.


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