Roman Banks was a little worried.
Fresh from a sparkling first season with the Southern men’s basketball team, Banks spent the early part of this offseason doing two things: accepting awards and recruiting players.
Last week, Banks was named Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, thanks to the 13-win turnaround he engineered in his first year as the Jaguars’ coach. Banks knew, however, that he desperately needs a new crop of players next year — to replace seniors Quinton Doggett and Fred Coleman, and to fortify an already thin roster.
Wednesday night, when the spring signing period began, Banks hadn’t heard from most of his commitments, leading to a few tense moments.
By Friday night, however, four players had signed and faxed their national letters of intent. And the coach was happy. Banks said he got most of what he needed, including two scoring guards (Yondarius Johnson, of Plain Dealing; and Devonse Reed, of Dallas), a point guard (Chris Hyder, of Dallas) and a post player (Damian Goodwin, of suburban Atlanta).
“But I think all these guys can contribute right away,” Banks said, “and that’s what we need.”
Reed, a 6-foot-4 guard from Wilmer Hutchins High School, was named Texas Class 3A player of the year after averaging 24.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. His team reached the 3A state semifinals this season.
Reed drew praise from opposing coaches for his ability to score on the perimeter and by posting up smaller guards.
“He’ll have to concentrate a little more on the defensive end. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this kid, as a freshman, can come in and make a difference,” Banks said. “He’ll come in and play some minutes behind Derick Beltran, and (Reed) can get to the rim.”
Beltran, the team’s leading scorer, will be a senior next season.
Hyder, a 5-foot-10 point guard, helped lead South Oak Cliff High School to the Texas Class 4A state semifinals as a senior, averaging 11.0 points and 8.0 assists per game.
He was named the District 11-4A MVP.
“He’s definitely a playmaking guard. Very smart,” Banks said. “He’ll be able to adapt and run our offense very well. I don’t want to overstate myself, but he definitely reminds you of an Avery Johnson, making great passes and controlling the game.”
Signing a point guard was a must for Southern. Jameel Grace, who will be a senior, was the team’s only point guard on scholarship.
If Johnson’s name sounds familiar, it should. The 6-foot-4 guard already played one season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, for archrival Grambling (where current SU assistant Morris Scott was on staff at the time). Johnson averaged 5.1 points and 16.3 minutes at Grambling in 2010-11, shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. He left the school and played last season at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College.
“He can create his own shot. He’s a type of guy that, at the end of the shot clock, can break a defense down,” Banks said. “He can defend, he can find the rim, and he’s very competitive.”
Goodwin, a 6-foot-7 small forward and power forward, helped Columbia High School of Decatur, Ga., to its third consecutive Georgia Class 3A state title. Though he averaged fewer than 10 points, Goodwin had 10 rebounds in the state championship game.
“Very long and athletic,” Banks said of Goodwin. “He can step out and make 15-foot shots. I think that athletically, he is ready to contribute. He has a good knowledge of the game. He’ll have to get a little stronger — but his strength, and him adjusting speed of the game, will define his role as it relates to this year.”
Southern also had to have a post player in this year’s class. The team’s only scoring and rebounding threat last season was Doggett, who completed his eligibility.
Banks said he hopes to add at least one more player to the class before the signing period ends May 16.