Rising sophomore could regret decision
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Memphis rising sophomore Sean Banks left USA Basketball in the lurch Friday. The decision ultimately could prove costly to his aspiring pro career.
Banks, who lives 15 minutes from the New Jersey Nets' practice facility, which is being used as the training site for the 2004 World Championships for Young Men's qualifying team, did not bother to call USA Basketball in advance and inform officials that he would not be attending tryouts.
Instead, representatives from USA Basketball had to track down Memphis coach John Calipari and inform him that Banks was nowhere to be found hours before he was due to check into his hotel Thursday night.
Calipari told ESPN.com on Friday night that he spoke with Banks, who attended nearby Bergen Catholic High School. The star forward told his coach he "didn't want to play," a choice that comes at the expense of other players who wanted to attend qualifying.
Stunned, Calipari told Banks that he was making a mistake and that he would likely regret this decision.
Banks was ESPN.com's national freshman of the year after leading the Tigers in scoring (17.4 points per game) and rebounding (6.5 per game). The 6-foot-8 Banks, who started all 30 games for the Tigers, led them to a 22-8 record and second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Banks would have had a legitimate chance to make the World Championships team because of his prolific scoring ability. But, just as important, he could have proven to NBA scouts who attended practices this week -- and likely will check out the competition in Halifax, Nova Scotia, later this month -- that he was worthy of being a first-round pick, possibly as early as 2005.
Instead, scouts Friday night were likely wondering whether Banks is able to make good decisions.
Last year, while a Bergen Catholic student, Banks was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of interfering with a government function related to his associating with gang members. He pleaded guilty, was fined by the court, and was suspended four games by Bergen.
He will have a hard time overcoming his decision not to participate with USA Basketball. Officials will not close the door on him playing in the future, but they clearly were not pleased.
Team USA coach Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma shook his head when asked about Banks' absence. Sampson said Banks did not give a reason for blowing off the tryout, adding that officials were prepared to send a cab to his house to pick him up if transportation were an issue. The idea became moot when word came back that Banks did not want to participate.
Ironically, Banks' teammate, rising junior Rodney Carney, took the roster spot of injured guard Deron Williams last week. Carney was extremely active around the basket during Friday night's practice and has a chance to make the squad. Sampson and his staff of Tom Crean (Marquette) and Dan Monson (Minnesota) are expected to trim the roster from 19 to 12 after Sunday's practice.
The team will then remain in New Jersey next week before heading to Canada.
Other players competing for roster spots are Wake Forest's Justin Gray, Chris Paul and Eric Williams; North Carolina's Sean May and Rashad McCants; Arizona's Hassan Adams and Mustafa Shakur; Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, Indiana's Bracey Wright, Louisville's David Padgett, Connecticut's Charlie Villanueva, Oregon's Aaron Brooks, Michigan State's Shannon Brown, Syracuse's Demetris Nichols, Villanova's Curtis Sumpter, Texas' P.J. Tucker, Tennessee's C.J. Watson and Charlotte's Curtis Withers.
The top three teams in the regional competition in Halifax earn spots in the World Championships for Young Men in 2005.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.