banks camp

James Banks held his annual summer basketball camp at Beech Haven Baptist Church last week.

A longtime Athens Academy coach, Banks has hosted this camp for over two decades, teaching young athletes the fundamentals of basketball.

Georgia Bulldogs basketball fans will recognize Banks’ name because he helped lead the Bulldogs to the 1983 Final Four as a member of the team. Banks was a major contributor on that Final Four team, as he averaged 14 points per game and five rebounds per game that season.

He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1984 NBA draft, and continued his professional career overseas in Europe for 14 years. Since his playing days, Banks has become an ambassador for the game, spreading his basketball knowledge and mentoring young players.

Banks served as the boys varsity head coach at Athens Academy for 11 years and has now swapped roles with his former assistant coach Brian Olson. He is now Olson’s assistant on the girls varsity team.

Banks also teaches physical education at the lower and middle school levels for the school, which is around the same age range as the kids in his camp.

Coincidentally, in his 21st year of the camp, Banks had 21 campers who ranged in ages from third to eighth grade.

Banks was proud of how each individual got better and more confident throughout the week. He was also proud of the fact that some of his former players and campers came back to help facilitate drills and referee the games.

Every day of the camp, Banks guided his campers through drills involving defense, rebounding, ball-handling and passing to improve their skill set. For the games, each team had a mix of older and younger kids, so the teams were asked to make at least three passes per possession before taking a shot at the basket. Banks said that was mandated not only to give everyone a chance to touch the ball, but to reiterate the importance of fundamentals.

“It’s the foundation,” Banks said regarding which lessons he tries to instill in his campers. “Now they have to learn to move, cut, and play as a team.”

Throughout his journey, Banks has grown more appreciative of what basketball has meant to him.

“I love the camaraderie, and the relationships you establish along the way,” Banks said. “I was very blessed to have great coaching growing up, and I learned to do things the right way with teamwork.”

As a player, Banks was able to live his dream playing professional basketball while traveling the world. Now as a coach, he encourages and inspires the next generation of athletes to pursue theirs.

“This is my way of giving back to the game that has given me great opportunities,” Banks said, reflecting on what coaching has meant to him.

Older generations know him as a great basketball player for the University of Georgia, who was instrumental in bringing the Bulldogs to their last Final Four.

Younger generations know him as a coach, leader, and mentor.

Either way, Banks will continue to make an impression in Athens for years to come.

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