Texas incoming freshmen Jarrett Allen (left) and James Banks are both vying to make the final 12-man roster for the Team USA Under-18 team that will compete in Chile in late July.

Men's Basketball

‘Fro Brothers’ could make dynamic 1-2 punch for Shaka Smart

Jarrett Allen, James Banks have the hair style, confidence to step into Texas' starting frontcourt this fall

Posted July 11th, 2016

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HOUSTON — Two years ago, the Texas marketing department had it easy. Go round up every bucket hat in Austin and — voila! — you had a sure-fire way to promote incoming freshman Myles Turner.

The “Fro Brothers” present far more intriguing possibilities.

Jarrett Allen and James Banks, two incoming freshmen with vastly different personalities, may be the perfect replacements for the departed Cam Ridley and Prince Ibeh. Both are active big men, solid rim protectors and both seem confident enough to step in and play immediately this fall.

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“On campus, you’ll always see us together,” the 6-foot-10 Allen said. “You can see it in practice. We’re already starting to throw each other lobs, already starting to get more chemistry.”

And about that nickname, Allen said, “Fro Brothers. That’s what we call ourselves.”

Allen and Banks both enrolled at UT earlier this summer, but they’re getting advance work with USA basketball. Both players hope to make the final 12-man roster on the Under-18 team headed to Chile later this week. UT coach Shaka Smart heads up the squad that will compete in the FIBA Americas U18 championship.

Monday’s practice at Houston Strake Jesuit was a clear indicator of the pair’s yin-yang relationship.

As UT fans learned during his recruitment, Allen is extremely reserved. He’s personable, to be sure. But as Smart said of Allen, “He’s more of a laid back personality.”

Meanwhile, Banks is a talker, a high energy sensation that rubs off on those around him. For example, 17 players shuffled quietly onto the court for the 6 p.m. practice. Banks was the first one clapping his hands, making noise and waking the echoes.

“Of course, Cam Ridley and Prince Ibeh were amazing players,” Banks said. “But I expect to come in, and I expect him to come in, and be phenomenal as well. We see ourselves as a nice 1-2 punch.”

Smart said Banks “really separated himself” with his energy in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the first round of U18 tryouts. The UT coach said Banks is probably like that “90 percent of the time.”

Considering Smart loves high-energy players, Banks must be a Godsend.

“It would start in stretching, in warm-ups, and it would go all the way through the end of practice,” Smart said. “Really, really important for us that we take advantage of that on this team. And I think that’s soothing that’s really going to help him on the Texas team.”

Allen said, “He brings energy for the team. I know you can hear him during the workouts. Probably the loudest guy in here. That’s what I love about him. He brings out my more energetic side.”

Both players can make plenty of noise once five-on-five drills begin. Allen averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds at St. Stephen’s and captured a pair of state titles. Banks, who averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds as a junior, has a muscular frame, one that should thrive under UT strength coach Daniel Roose.

The Longhorns are in dire need of solid front court reinforcements. Together, Ridley and Ibeh averaged 9.7 rebounds per game over the last four years. And they collided with some of the league’s biggest bruisers.

Frankly, if Smart can get consistent scoring from the power forward and center position, that’d be an upgrade. Allen and Banks have that potential. Allen showed off a nifty mid-range jumper on Monday. Banks could leap and dunk with ease.

“It would be ignorant to say we won’t have a learning curve here or there. But I feel like through coaching, and being tough, we can get through it,” Banks said.

Smart has three important letters across his chest. He’s said numerous times how coaching for Team USA is an honor. But, as Smart pointed out Monday, he’s still got a job in Austin, too.

“We’re just getting started in terms of their development,” Smart said. “They haven’t played a college game yet. But yes, it’s definitely something I’m thinking about every day.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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