Every once in a while, Southern men’s basketball coach Roman Banks will call out a “long layup” to his team.
The term has been around the program for years. It happens when the Jaguars are able to hit a quick, fast-break shot along the wing before the other team knows what hit it. It’s so clean, it looks as easy as a layup.
But Banks’ players don’t always know where the phrase comes from. As a Baton Rouge native who grew up watching Southern basketball, Banks tries to give them history lessons about the program, telling stories of past Southern glory.
But sometimes, there’s no substitution for a first-hand account.
On Saturday, Banks and his program will honor the group that originated the phrase as the 1977-78 Southern basketball team returns to the F.G. Clark Activity Center for the first time as a team since the days they wore the Columbia blue and gold.
Seven former players, including Gregory “Pop” Green and former Southern coach Tommy Green, both of whom were drafted into the NBA, will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Grambling as part of the Jaguars’ alumni weekend.
Banks said it’s important to highlight the rich history of the school’s basketball program and remind players of the brotherhood they’re a part of. It gives them a goal to shoot for — and hopefully surpass.
“Oftentimes, because we’re not a major profile-type university, that legacy gets lost in translation,” Banks said. “That’s vital for the future success of our basketball team as we go out to recruit players and as we go through this transformation we’re going through right now.”
As a senior shooting guard for the team, Gregory Green was a major factor in an offense that averaged 94.7 points on its way to a Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship and an NCAA Division II playoff birth.
Green, a product of McKinley High, said the Jaguars didn’t realize the significance of the team until a few years after, when they saw how many players were able to turn pro — including his own fifth-round selection by the New York Knicks in 1978. Tommy Green was a second-round pick by the New Orleans Jazz.
But what stuck out in Gregory Green’s mind more than all the scoring or postseason success — he said he couldn’t remember whom the Jaguars played in the NCAA tournament that year — was the feeling of family among not only the team but the entire community.
“That legacy is being passed down year to year,” Gregory Green said. “There was such an excitement in the air at that time, and people were really excited about the games. It was really like a big family event.”
Gregory Green called it an honor and a privilege to be able to walk down the halls of the arena and see his former team’s picture hanging on the wall.
It’s been a slow process so far, but Banks hopes to be able to honor several more teams and players over the course of the next few years.
Next season, he’s planning to invite the 1968 team back for alumni weekend.
But for now, Banks is just happy his players will finally be able to put a face to “long layup” stories over a traditional Southern University meal of fried fish, potato salad and peas.