LARAMIE – A.J. Banks’ confidence has become a topic of discussion recently.
A couple of weeks ago, the first-year University of Wyoming junior point guard’s confidence was high coming off an 18-point, three-assist and three-steal game Dec. 22 at Texas-El Paso. All of those marks were career highs.
“That helped my confidence a ton,” Banks said. “For me, my confidence kind of decides how successful my night goes. I have to come into every game with that same mindset.”
In the two games since then, the 6-foot-2 Banks has scored 15 points, but has six turnovers and three assists. After UW’s 69-55 loss to Boise State in the Mountain West opener Wednesday, third-year coach Allen Edwards talked about Banks and his confidence.
“We need more from A.J.,” Edwards said. “He is a kid that has to play with a little more confidence. I’m not trying to do anything to take away his confidence.”
Edwards wasn’t singling out Banks for the Boise State loss. He said other players have to do their part, too, since UW is down to seven scholarship players.
Senior do-it-all guard Justin James has struggled over the past four games, going 14 of 63 from the field and committed 26 turnovers. The 6-foot-7 James has played mostly point guard in recent games due to injuries and suspensions to other players.
Edwards said James has pressed too much, trying to make up for the absence of 41 percent of the team’s scoring and rebounding from players who are out.
More production and efficiency from Banks would help UW (4-10 overall, 0-1 MW) entering its game at 8 tonight at UNLV (7-6, 1-0).
Edwards also said he may have true freshman Trace Young, at 6-9, play more at the point tonight and moving forward. Among the players UW has, Edwards said Young is the Cowboys’ third-best ball-handler behind James and Banks. Whether it is Banks or Young, Edwards would like to play James more off the ball, if possible.
Perhaps tonight’s game will provide a spark of confidence for Banks, who is from Las Vegas and went to high school at Cheyenne High, where he averaged 11.4 points per game as a senior before he attended Pratt Community College in Kansas for two years before signing with UW.
The Rebels edged Colorado State 78-76 at home in their MW opener Wednesday.
UNLV is without 6-7 senior forward Shakur Juiston due to season-ending knee surgery. Juiston averaged 10.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
The Rebels still have plenty of firepower. Guards Kris Clyburn and Amauri Hardy average 12.8 and 12.3 points per game, respectively. They also have size. Freshman forward Joel Ntambwe, at 6-9, averages 11 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest. Sophomore Cheikh Mbacke Diong, at 6-11, averages 6.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
UW has had little success playing at UNLV, with a 3-27 record there. The Cowboys have lost their last 16 games at the Thomas & Mack Center. Their last win there came on Feb. 1, 2003.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.