Southern coach Roman Banks is returning to Hammond again.
Almost exactly four years ago, Banks took his first Jaguars team to play Southeastern Louisiana University in the University Center, where he had worked as a Lions assistant coach the previous eight seasons.
Banks was coaching just his third game at Southern, which lost 65-61 in overtime for SLU’s seventh consecutive victory in the series.
When Banks and the Jaguars return to the University Center to face the Lions at 7 p.m. Friday, things will be much different.
This Southern team is 4-1 after winning four consecutive games, including a win at Mississippi State and one at home against Tulane.
Banks said he has been getting “a lot of texts, tweets, emails and everything.”
There’s no escaping the fact that a Banks team playing at SLU isn’t just another game, no matter how hard he tries to make it that. But he’s still trying.
“I try to take myself out of the equation,” Banks said. “I spent a lot of time there and we had a lot of success.”
The Lions were perennial Southland Conference contenders under both Billy Kennedy and Jim Yarbrough while Banks was there. They won 140 games, second to LSU’s 144 wins among Louisiana schools, and had seven winning season seasons, most of any Louisiana Division I school, in that span.
Banks also played a key role in recruiting several Lion standouts, including All-Conference selections Daryl Cohen, Kevyn Green, Terry Bryant and Patrick Sullivan as well as 2005-06 Southland Conference Player of the Year Ricky Woods.
Southern assistants Morris Scott and Rodney Kirschner also spent time on the SLU staff.
“It’s two programs that recruit some of the same kids,” Banks said. “Both teams are trying to win. It’s a big basketball game. It’s a rivalry and they’re right down the interstate so I think this game means a lot for a lot of different reasons.”
SLU is off to a slow start with a 2-6 record after a 101-65 home victory against Loyola on Tuesday. Still this is a good gauge for the Jaguars, whose last two wins came against NAIA opponents Dillard and Paul Quinn College.
They haven’t played away from the F.G. Clark Activity Center since beating Mississippi State on Nov. 16.
“It’ll be a lot more challenging, but every game we go out and play the same way,” guard Christopher Hyder said. “Everybody does what they do whether it’s a bigger school or a smaller school than us.”
Banks said he scheduled the game against Quinn, which Southern won 96-63, to coincide with the demands of final exams, which have since concluded.
Now the players can focus fully on basketball until the spring semester and Southwestern Athletic Conference play both start shortly after New Year’s.
“We’re sharing the ball better,” Hyder said. “We’re playing better on defense, knowing where we’re supposed to be, so that enables us to get out and run the floor and get easy buckets.” Banks said he was pleased that forward D’Adrian Allen returned against Quinn on Monday and “was a presence” after missing the game against Dillard and several practices because of back spasms.
Forward Shawn Prudhomme has emerged as the team’s third-leading scorer. Though Prudhomme started against Dillard, Banks brought him off the bench against Quinn, something he plans to continue.
“I can bring him in at a couple of positions and that’s important for the style that we play,” Banks said. “He’s always going to be a primary part for us.
“Even though he’s coming off the bench he’ll still play starters minutes. I expect more from him than from some of the guys that start.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.