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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Profile: RJ Banks leaves lasting impression at Fullerton College

Coming off of two major injuries, RJ Banks led Fullerton College men’s basketball to multiple Conference Championships and a State Title. Banks will now continue to further his education, as he gets ready to embark on a new collegiate journey.
Ciara Gonzalez
Hornets sophomore guard RJ Banks looks to push the tempo for Fullerton in their 2nd round game of the 3C2A SoCal playoffs. Banks will continue his basketball career this upcoming fall at Chaminade University.

Hornets basketball team captain RJ Banks found a love for the sport at an early age, and now is known as a Fullerton College legend. Banks played a pivotal role in Fullerton College bringing home a CCCAA State Championship during the 2022-23 season as the No.1 team in the state, forever etching his name in Hornet history on the court.

Playing in 19 total games in the 2023-24 season, Banks led the basketball team to the 3C2A Final Four against College of Sequoias, but fell just two wins short of winning the state championship title for the second year in a row.

“Starting towards the end of the season, I was thinking about how we tried to go back-to-back and trying to win two in a row. That’s something we always thought about. I was trying to take it one game at a time. There was never too much pressure,” said Banks.

In the previous season, Fullerton defeated City College of San Francisco, 83-73, completing the 2022-23 season with the title of 3C2A State Champions. The victory gave the Hornets their fifth state championship, and tied Fullerton with Cerritos, Fresno City, Long Beach City and San Francisco for leading the state for the most titles all-time.

Hornets sophomore guard RJ Banks looking to make a move past a defender in the quarterfinals of the 3C2A State Tournament. Banks averaged 8.0 points, along with 2.4 assists, and 2.8 rebounds this past season. (Matthew Gonzalez)

After his father put Banks into a little league for basketball, he fell in love and continued to pursue his passion. Basketball was the first and only sport that Banks has ever played.

Growing up in Bakersfield, California, and attending Bakersfield High School, Banks decided to travel down to Los Angeles during his senior year and play his final season on the varsity team at Cathedral High School. Banks said it was hard for him to move away from his family, and he still isn’t sure if he regrets the decision or not.

After graduating, Banks moved even farther away, this time attending the University of Nevada-Reno, but only stayed for a month and a half before ultimately deciding it wasn’t in his best interest to stay long term. This led him to leaving the school and looking for other opportunities, until head coach Perry Webster called Banks, wanting him to come to Fullerton College.

“RJ is my brother. He’s meant the world to me as a leader of this program, but also as a friend and a brother. He treats my family well, he treats everybody around him well. He has been a Godsend for me in my career,” said Webster.

Banks joined the team during Covid-19, but didn’t have much of a season due to the pandemic. He spent his year living in Bakersfield, and was not able to play basketball.

Fullerton sophomore guard RJ Banks leaves the school with personal accolades as well. Banks took home back-to-back All OEC 1st team honors. (Ciara Gonzalez )

Banks started in the 2021-22 season as a freshman, but that run was unfortunately cut short due to injury.

Continuing into his second year playing, the 2022-23 season was one for the ages. Banks was able to show being a captain, and excelled in his role. He overcame his early struggles with injury and went straight into the state championships as the N0. 1 team in the state.

In his final year with the Hornets in the 2023-24 season, Banks started the season injured, recovering from another tough injury, this time being his ACL.

Banks recovered miraculously fast from an ACL injury and still managed to lead his team as captain again. Although they fell short of winning another title, the Hornets did claim the Orange Empire Conference title for the third consecutive season.

“Getting hurt is not the worst thing in the world. It’s not a big deal. I got a really strong relationship with God,” said Banks. “My last injury, my ACL injury, really proved that to me because I had a lot of faith and I was really praying and I got healed and was able to come back.”

Banks had a few influential people that helped him during his time at Fullerton College. Number one being Webster, who gave a kid from Bakersfield the opportunity to excel in the sport he loved.

“He [Webster] really has done a lot for me. I probably wouldn’t have been here today. I wouldn’t have been graduating and stuff. I made a mistake. I messed up, and he really was there for me and was helping me clean up my mess,” said Banks.

Another supporter from Fullerton College Banks mentioned was former roommate and teammate Kobe Newton, who is now currently at the University of Wyoming, pursuing his dream of playing basketball as well. Banks said Newton was a big supporter of his, showed him the ropes and was there for him at all times.

Banks was a recipient of the 2023-24 FC Academic Athletic Award excelling not only in athletics, but also in his education. (Matthew Gonzalez)

Outside of basketball, Banks’ biggest passion is building his relationship with God. He loves reading his bible and praying. If it wasn’t for basketball, being a musician could easily be a path chosen for Banks as he likes to sing and play several instruments.

Banks will continue his career and education at Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii, earning a full-ride scholarship earlier this month. He is joining former Hornet and teammate from this past season in Amound Anderson II, as the two will look to bring their winning ways to Chaminade.

“I just really enjoy and appreciate it [Fullerton College] because it’s brought a lot of people in my life and gave me some cool experiences,” said Banks.

Banks left a forever lasting impact on the basketball program at Fullerton College, and will look to make a new mark at Chaminade University.

“RJ has led the program since the first day he showed up. Teammates look to him for leadership. He has the ability and respect to demand more of the people around him,” said Webster. “We will miss his voice in our program daily, but his ability to lead has matriculated down to our Hornets of the future. He’s been a great guide for them to learn how to be leaders themselves. RJ Banks is a Hornets legend.”

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About the Contributor
Ciara Gonzalez
Ciara Gonzalez, Staff Reporter
Ciara Gonzalez is an award-winning staff reporter in her second semester at The Hornet. She likes to read, play with her dog Dino, and spend time with her friends and family. Her goals for the future are to get a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and work for a news organization as a reporter.

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    Roland BanksMay 23, 2024 at 6:45 am

    So proud of him he excels on and off the court. God gets all the glory.