Southern men open at Arkansas to start road-heavy preconference schedule _lowres

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern guard Trelun Banks drives past Mississippi Valley State guard Jabari Alex on Jan. 19, 2015 at Southern's F. G. Clark Activity Center.

The Southern men’s basketball team doesn’t have to cross an ocean to play its season opener at Arkansas on Friday night.

But for guard Trelun Banks and forward Jared Sam, a trip to Europe to play with an all-star team during the summer was good preparation for the Jaguars’ always arduous preconference travel schedule.

“That trip reminds you of when we go on the road to start the season,” Banks said. “It helps you to prepare for traveling during the season.”

Sam was unfazed by the travel, both domestic and abroad, which included several stops in Belgium, one in Amsterdam and one in London.

“I just sleep when we’re traveling,” he said.

The five games against European professional teams also helped Banks and Sam prepare for some of the heavyweights on their preconference schedule.

“It was more physical because they’re professionals,” Sam said. “They’re grown men.”

Banks said he saw “tremendous growth” from Sam during and after the trip.

“Each game the competition got better,” Banks said. “(Sam’s) game is faster, more aggressive and stronger. His outlook on the game is clearer after facing pro athletes. He did a good job. He did what he does here.”

Banks also benefited from the trip, especially operating with a 24-second shot clock as college teams prepare for the transition from a 35-second to a 30-second shot clock this season.

“You can tell it helped their game,” guard Christopher Hyder said. “They’re a lot smarter. You can tell the impact on their game by the way they’re playing.”

The trip abroad was just the latest in a series of basketball adventures for Banks and Sam, who were AAU teammates for several seasons before teaming up at Scotlandville High for two seasons before being reunited when Sam arrived at Southern two years ago before playing as a redshirt freshman last season.

“I think (the trip) has given a lot of confidence to those two,” coach Roman Banks said. “I see a lot of similarities in those two guys being that they’re coming from high school where they won championships together and you can see that chemistry on the court.

“They’re both kind of unselfish guys. They’re both going to be important to our success this season.”

The first leg of the preconference schedule has the Jaguars moving on to Starkville, Miss., to play Mississippi State on Monday.

They play three straight home games, including the opener against Tulane on Nov. 19, before embarking on in-state trips to face Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech as well as out-of-state trips to Phoenix; Laramie, Wyo.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Las Vegas.

“We log a lot of miles this year,” coach Banks said. “The schedule is definitely a heavy schedule. We go a lot of places. We’ll have our first bonding going on the bus to Arkansas then on to Mississippi State, so we’ll definitely have time to learn each other.”

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.