Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | 5:09 p.m.
When the UNLV basketball team needed a big basket in its run to the Final Four in 1987, legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian wanted the ball in only one players' hands — "Fearless" Freddie Banks.
Banks, who made 229 career 3-pointers from 1984-87 and widely is considered one of the program's top all-time performers, still is being honored for his sharp-shooting.
Banks was announced Wednesday as one of five people selected for induction into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame. The group, which will be inducted June 4 during a ceremony at the Orleans Arena, also includes veteran coach and official James Bayne, longtime UNLV public address announcer Dick Calvert, philanthropist Fred Darling, and deceased baseball coach Ralph Meder. Also, the Fertitta Family, primary owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and significant financial backers at Bishop Gorman High, will be inducted.
After leading Valley High to three consecutive state championships, Banks continued to shine at UNLV and capped his career by helping the Rebels reach the Final Four. Against Indiana in the national semifinals, the Las Vegas native set a record for 3-pointers made with 10.
The record still exists today.
So does the nickname.
"I'm a grandfather of five," he said. "I tell them, 'Your grandfather is still fearless.'
The moniker was given by Tarkanian, who calls Banks the most-clutch shooter he has ever coached.
"God, that is great. I'm so glad for Freddie," Tarkanian said of Wednesday's announcement. "I gave him that nickname because he was not afraid of anything. He took so many big shots and made so many big shots. He wanted the ball and I wanted him to have it. He hit more big shots at UNLV than anyone else."
Banks still holds the UNLV record for 3-pointers in a season with 152, and as a senior in 1987 helped the Rebels finish the regular season ranked No. 1. They lost only two games that year, falling by one-point to Oklahoma and eventually bowing out of the tournament against Indiana.
Still, a local legend was born that night in New Orleans at the Final Four. Banks seemingly couldn't miss in scoring 38 points in a 97-93 loss.
"He was hitting them from everywhere that night," Tarkanian said.
Banks was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons, but never stuck in the NBA. He played one season overseas in Greece and since has dedicated his life to coaching. An assistant at Sunrise Region champion Canyon Springs High in North Las Vegas, Banks is one of the most respected assistant coaches in town.
"Everything he does at Canyon Springs is for the kids," said Daryl Branham, the Pioneers' head coach who has coached with Banks for 10 years. "He is from the community. Some of the kids might not know of him or remember what he did, but their parents do. He was very successful at Valley, played at UNLV and holds a record in the Final Four."
Banks, who is fourth on UNLV's all-time scoring list with 2,007 career points and is part of the school's hall of fame, calls working with children his passion. He takes great pride in knowing he is making a difference, and, more importantly, doing so in his hometown.
During an event to announce the induction class at the Galleria Mall, Banks took a tour through the hall's display inside the Findlay Automotive Store. He was in awe of the past inductees and honored to be included.
"I was very excited when I got the call. It put a smile on my face," said Banks, who will turn 45 Saturday. "This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my career. Something I proud of."
Bayne, a former teacher and football coach at Bonanza and Western highs, has more than 30 years experience as an official. He has worked numerous football and baseball games, receiving assignments in minor league baseball from the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. In football, he has worked college bowl games the past two years.
Calvert has been the public address announcer for UNLV basketball and football for five decades, calling an estimated 3,300 games.
"This is all because of that little university on Maryland Parkway," Calvert said. "I truly believe that."
Darling coached Valley High's American Legion baseball affiliate to the 1984 World Series — the first time a Las Vegas team made the national tournament. A business owner, he donated the funds for the Amanda and Stacy Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. The multi-court facility has hosted everything from professional tour stops to high-school tournaments.
Meder helped started the semi-professional Las Vegas Cowboys baseball team in 1959. Called 'Mr. Baseball' by friends, Meder was a dedicated youth coach who taught future major leaguers such as Greg Maddux, Marty Barrett and Mike Morgan during their childhoods in Las Vegas.
Meder died in 1983 and his funeral was attended by several youth players.