Cameron Monroe is the first Southern basketball player to have a four-year career under coach Roman Banks.
The pair, who are second cousins, arrived together amid an NCAA postseason ban for their first season due to APR shortcomings that predated them.
Then came a Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament title and an impressive battle with No. 1 national seed Gonzaga in a 64-48 loss in the NCAA Tournament.
Then, early last season, Southern was blindsided with another APR-related postseason ban that hung over the Jaguars as they won the SWAC regular-season title and remains in effect.
So Monroe’s career and Banks’ fourth season will come to an end during the SWAC tournament in Houston in two weeks. On Saturday, Monroe and four other seniors will be honored before their final home game against Alcorn State at 5:30 p.m. in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
“It was a no-brainer coming here,” he said. “It was a situation where we weren’t able to play for the (NCAA) tournament, but if we worked hard the next year we would be eligible. So it was just about hard work and commitment so I was really looking forward to that challenege.”
Monroe had to pay his own way his first season because the Jaguars were down two scholarships as part of the APR sanctions. In that season, the Jaguars earned the necessary 900 aggregate APR to have the ban lifted. The current ban is due to inadequate documentation from the university.
“This situation is a lot different,” Monroe said. “It weighs heavy on us because it’s really out of our control.”
Monroe is the only senior to play more than two seasons at Southern. Guard Tre Lynch, a transfer from Lamar, center Frank Snow, a transfer from junior college, and guard Mike Harrell, a transfer from Southeastern Louisiana who played at Southern Lab, have played two seasons. Forward Keith Davis sat out last season as a transfer from Texas A&M, and he is using his final year of eligibility this season.
Southern is 11-4 in the SWAC and 14-15 overall. Alcorn State is 4-11 and 5-22.
“None of these guys were five-star athletes, and they all have contributed to the success of our team this year,” Banks said. “The underlying story with them is muddling through all that we have gone through as it relates to our institutional problems.
“I don’t know if I could have gotten a better group of seniors to stick with me like they have.”
Forwards Calvin Godfrey, who would have been a senior, and Damien Goodwin, who would have been a junior, transferred after last season because of the NCAA ban. All of the seniors to be had the option of becoming eligible immediately at another school because of the ban.
Lynch, who had academic and disciplinary problems at Lamar, wasn’t going anywhere.
“I stayed with coach Banks because he gave me a second chance,” Lynch said. “Any time someone gives you a second chance to do something that you love, you have to be appreciate and grateful for it. The first thing he told me was I had to get right in the classroom.”
On May 8 Lynch will become the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
The departure of Godfrey and Goodwin thrust Snow into a much more prominent role as a senior. When they left, Banks wasn’t sure what he could get out of Snow, but he has become akey player.
“We took him as a guy who had length (6-foot-10) and would be a backup his whole career and now he’s a starter,” Banks said.
Snow just returned after missing four games because of hand surgery. Southern struggled with its inside game in his absence.
“Last year I didn’t really get to play as much as I wanted to, but I still came in and helped when I could,” Snow said. “This year going through this injury it showed me how much the team really needed me. It kind of hurts to not be able to get those games back to play with my team.”
Davis is also 6-10 on a team that’s undersized.
“He’s come a long way from the first game to this point,” Banks said. “It seemed like he was a guy that couldn’t catch the basketball and now he’s catching it and making jump hooks for us.”
Harrell became eligible at mid-season last year and has provided depth on a guard-heavy roster.
“He has really bought into that role as the third point guard,” Banks said. “He just got caught up in a numbers game, but with him I’m able to put in a guy who has experience.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.