Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Padding the Stats: Dalano Banton, Isaiah Roby and The Basketball Tournament

June 23, 2021

We’re still in the heart of the basketball season with the NBA Playoffs raging on and the NBA Draft process really heating up, so here we go with three more Nebraska hoops-related topics.

Banton Making Noise

Nebraska’s Dalano Banton announced at the end of May that he was planning to enter the NBA Draft while keeping his options open. The 6-foot-9 Canadian point guard did not receive an NBA Combine invitation, but when Houston’s DeJon Jarreau had to pull out of the G League Elite Camp that preceded the Combine, Banton got the late call to make the trip to Chicago.

Banton measured in at 6-foot-9 in shoes (6-foot-7.75 without) and 194.4 pounds with a 6-foot-10.25 wingspan.

In the two scrimmages, Banton recorded eight points on 4-of-13 shooting (0-of-6 from 3), 21 rebounds, nine assists, two turnovers and two blocks in 41 minutes. He went scoreless in his first appearance but closed out the camp in strong fashion with an eight-point, 13-rebound, five-assist, two-block performance.

Banton drew some praise, specifically for his passing, but was not one of the select few from the camps who received an invitation to stick around for the Combine. Banton remains an intriguing prospect for the next level because of his rare combination of size and court vision, but going 0-for from deep probably didn’t help allay any concerns about his jump shot.

Banton’s disappointing finish to the season following Nebraska’s month-long COVID-19 shutdown puts him in an awkward place because his strengths didn’t even shine through like they did before the pause while the weaknesses (namely, the scoring efficiency and ability to create in the halfcourt) persisted. It sounds like the last few months have allowed him to get back to where he was early in the season.

Banton spoke with HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky, and his answer about playing for Fred Hoiberg was particularly noteworthy as it makes for one heck of a recruiting pitch.

“Everything he says, I soak it up like a sponge,” Banton said. “I know where he is coming from. He has played and so it’s easy for me to understand him because he’s been in my shoes as well. He gives me advice on everything. I can call him as a friend, as a coach, as a brother. On the court, he puts me in places he feels I can do well. He was an NBA coach so he knows what it is like and how it is and so he puts me in positions where I can shine and show that I’m an NBA player. I’m not taking his experience for granted.”

Banton said he’s continued to work with Hoiberg on improving his jump shot, the skill that could ultimately determine whether or not he makes it to and sticks around the NBA. For the time being, he’ll continue to go through the pre-draft process. I still think he can help himself with another year in Lincoln, but he’ll have to make his decision based not he feedback he’s getting. We should know by July 7, the NCAA’s date to withdraw from the draft and maintain college eligibility.

Roby’s Return

We transition now from one NBA hopeful to a former Husker who is already playing in the league. After playing just 11 minutes in three games without scoring. Point as a rookie, former Husker Isaiah Roby made the most of his opportunity on a rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder team.

Roby played in 61 games with 34 starts, averaging 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 23.4 minutes per game. It seemed like I saw Roby dunking on somebody at least once a week this season once he established himself as a rotation fixture for the Thunder.

With two years as a pro under his belt, Roby is looking to give back to the city where he spent his three years of college. Roby is partnering with local skills trainer Thomas Viglianco to host a basketball camp for boys and girls grades fourth through ninth on July 31 and Aug. 1.

Viglianco works with some of the best high school, college and pro players in Nebraska (including Roby), and I’ve seen firsthand what he can do in a camp setting. He’s as good a resource as young aspiring basketball players will find, and Roby represented Nebraska as well as anyone has during his time in Lincoln.

Huskers in the TBT

The Basketball Tournament (TBT), the million-dollar winner-take-all basketball tournament open to all and filled with teams featuring former college stars, released its official 64-team field on Monday.

Unfortunately, a Nebrasketball alumni team was not among the 100-plus teams that applied for this year’s tournament. However, there are a handful of former Huskers for Nebraska fans to follow as the tournament kicks off next month.

James Palmer Jr. is playing with SCD Hoops, a first-time applicant and Chicago-based team looking to spread awareness for sickle cell disease. SCD Hoops is the 12 seed in the Illinois region and will take on 5 seed Autism Army in the first round.

Evan Taylor will compete with Peoria All-Stars, a team making its fifth straight appearance in TBT. They are the 13 seed in the Illinois regional and will take on No. 4 Always Us in the first round. If SCD Hoops and Peoria All-Stars both pull off first-round upsets, they’ll face off in the second round.

Duby Okeke is playing with Georgia Kingz, another new entry built around players from the Peach State. The Kings are the 11 seed in the West Virginia region and will face No. 6 Team 23 in the first round.

A couple of others who made stops in Lincoln, Andrew White III (Boeheim’s Army — Syracuse alumni) and Deverell Biggs (Omaha Blue Crew — Creighton alumni) are also on rosters.

In addition to Biggs, Kimball and South Dakota State legend Mike Daum is the only other Nebraska native competing this year. Daum is running it back with House of ‘Paign, the Illinois alumni team, after making a god run in last year’s tournament.

Golden Eagles, the Marquette alumni team, took home the prize last season and is back to make another run at it. Th other No. 1 seeds are Eberlein Drive, Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State alumni) and Sideline Cancer. Perhaps TBT’s calling card is the Elam Ending, the revolutionary way to finish a game that utilizes a target score rather than a clock to determine when the game is over. If you haven’t seen it before (perhaps during the NBA All-Star Game the last couple of years) then it’s worth tuning in for the novelty if nothing else.

TBT is a really fun tournament to follow and I’m glad we’ll get to see the tournament played in full this year after a reduced field in a bubble during the heart of the pandemic last summer. I’ve been hoping for a Nebraska or Creighton alumni team to compete in TBT for years. Omaha Central alumnus Josh Jones finally made it happen for the Bluejays, and I hope to see someone in Lincoln do the same at some point in the near future.

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