Kaleb Banks chose Indiana because it’s ‘the right place to be in my heart’

Kaleb Banks had planned to use the month of July to increase his recruiting options but not to make any recruiting decisions. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound wing from Fayetteville, Ga., had never really been through a July evaluation period when college coaches flocked to see him — he got limited attention after his freshman season and COVID-19 ruined the evaluation period last year — so he wanted to see what would happen when his game got real national exposure.

But about a week ago, Banks said, he decided that he already had the offer he wanted and knew where he wanted to spend his college career. He called Indiana assistant Yasir Rosemond and told him and coach Mike Woodson that he would be committing to Indiana, then made the announcement on his Twitter account Friday afternoon.

A three-star recruit and the No. 123 player in the Class of 2022 according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Banks picked the Hoosiers over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Xavier.

“I just got that feeling that Indiana was the right place to be in my heart,” Banks said. “I just thought, ‘Why wait?'”

The biggest reason Banks felt that way, he said, was the relationships he formed with the coaching staff. It started with Rosemond, an Atlanta native Banks knew long before the Hoosiers hired him this spring, but he also felt a close connection with Woodson and assistants Dane Fife and Kenya Hunter. Banks’ parents were concerned about him moving some distance away from home, but the coaches convinced them he’d be well taken care of.

“They stuck with me through my ups and downs,” Banks said. “I appreciated them a lot for that. When I took a visit, the whole staff was real genuine to me and my family. My mom and my dad had great conversations with the coaches. My mom likes everybody on the staff all the way to the academic people. She’s a teacher, so she knows what she’s talking about in that department. My dad wants what’s best for me, and he asked about security, and they told him I’d be straight. They were really worried about how far I was from home, and they felt that the coaches would take care out of me.”

From a basketball standpoint, Banks seems to be an obvious fit for what Mike Woodson wants to do at Indiana and Indiana seems to fit what Banks wants to do with his game. Banks has outstanding perimeter skill for his size and usually operates like a shooting guard and occasionally as a point guard. He said he expects to play small forward at Indiana, but in the modern game and in Woodson’s four-out, one-in, NBA style offense, the small forward frequently has ball-handling responsibilities and has to be counted on to shoot from the outside.

And if the situation called for it, Banks could just as easily play shooting guard or power forward if need be.

“They say I’ve got a high ceiling,” Banks said. “They think that they can bring the best out of me. I’m going to be a small forward. Coming in as that, I think I’m going to have to work hard, but they’re going to get the best out of me. I can’t wait to work on my game.”

Banks is coming off a high school season in which he averaged 23.5 points per game and was named Georgia Class 4A Region 5 Player of the Year and led Fayette County to the state title game. He’s shown an ability to score at all three levels — at the rim, in the mid-range and beyond the 3-point arc — and also to defend positions 1-4.

“As an athlete, the sky is the limit and he’s barely touching it right now,” Fayette County coach Andre Flynn said. “… He has the God-given ability, I promise you. He’s phenomenal. He’s big, a legit 6-8, 6-9 and can handle. He can shoot the ball inside, outside, He’s got the total package.”

Flynn said he’s trying to expand that package by pushing him to defend well on the perimeter and by pushing him to take the ball up more and operate as a primary ball-handler. He said taking on that role has made him more confident and more willing to take charge of his teams, both at Fayette County and with the Atlanta Celtics on the Adidas tournament circuit.

“What I’ve seen over the summer is his leadership,” Flynn said. “Kaleb can be quiet, but he’s being more vocal. He’s being a leader as a point guard and a point forward, and he’s excelled in that. His game is growing and growing.”