2004-04-16 / Sports

Far Rockaway’s Banjo Slashes To Professional Hoops

By Elio Velez

Far Rockaway’s Banjo Slashes To Professional Hoops

By Elio Velez

On January 3, 2004, the Quinnipiac Bobcats played their first basketball game ever at Madison Square Garden. Though Quinnipiac eventually lost to St. Francis (NY) 74-69, one of the stars for the Bobcats was Far Rockaway native Rashaun Banjo, who scored 24 points and 11 rebounds.

For college teams such as St. John’s, it’s second nature to play in the Garden. But for the Bobcats, it was an important game in their evolution to becoming a better team. And in Banjo’s four-year career, the rise of Quinnipiac basketball to contender status in the NEC Conference is something that head coach Joe DeSantis, a New York native, is proud of.

"Players like Rashuan and Kasim (Mims, from Christ the King High School) are the reasons why we have had a successful team. Because of them, we’re in the pre-season NIT in the fall (2004). These guys are the reason why this program is here today", DeSantis said.

Pro scouts seemed to be impressed by the play of the Northeast Conference Second Team All-Star. Starting this summer, Banjo will make his move to the professional ranks with the Brooklyn Kings of the United States Basketball League. Selected in the 4th round, the league will be hopefully become the start of a successful professional career in Europe or the U.S.

The 22-year-old Banjo had a solid career playing for Quinnipiac, in which he will graduate in May with a degree in Business/Entrepreneurship. Capable of playing three different positions, Banjo has honed his scoring skills from the inside and outside. The senior led the team in scoring with 17.5 ppg and 7.6 rebounds.

He improved every year in polishing his skills but it took a lot of hard work. It was apparent in his sophomore year at Lawrence Woodmere Academy after transferring from August Martin High School.

"When I first started at Woodmere Academy, it took me a while to play.", Banjo says. "After a while, I made the starting lineup but I had to work hard for it and I needed to do that".

When coach Jeff Weiss placed him in the starting lineup for the 1998-99 season, it quickly proved dividends for Woodmere. Banjo led the Tigers to a 22-5 record and won the New York State Class C Federation Championship.

Banjo once again had to work hard when he decided on attending Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. It was a tough freshman season and at times, Banjo lacked the confidence.

But it was the continual support of his head coach, the strong family support led by his mother Olyainka and father Lanre that helped Rashaun to regain his confidence.

"They (Rashaun’s parents) definitely keep me grounded", Banjo said.

Banjo admits he needs to become a bit more aggressive in his play in the pros. DeSantis agrees with that assessment but he also says that Banjo has other qualities that will make him a good pro.

"He is a great teammate. He showed a lot of maturity this year in helping the younger teammates because Rashaun had that experience in struggling", DeSantis says. "He is the most improved player out of any I have coached in my 8 years."

Banjo eventually wants to run his own business but his dreams are now to play summer tournaments and get to the next level. "I can bring a winning attitude. I try my best to win win. It’s necessary and intricate to be a player."

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