Name: Romelo Banks
Hometown: Kissimmee, Florida
School: University of North Florida — Jacksonville, Florida
“Do you play basketball?” It’s a question Romelo Banks has been asked all his life — even at a time when the sport wasn’t on his radar. He was a quiet kid, who like to read and do his own thing. Not hit the hardwood.
That changed sophomore year of high school, when he became taller than everyone else.
“At first I didn’t like it. I wanted to quit several times, but my Mom encouraged me to keep playing.”
Mom’s words became priceless after 2009, when Romelo was only 13. That’s when she got sick and passed away from stomach cancer. It was the toughest time of his life. “It effected me overall. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to play sports. I was really in depression and didn’t have motivation to do anything,” he explained.
The 6’11 center shared his story with me after practice one day. As usual, he was polite, helpful and more than willing to tell me about his upbringing.
Most people would have given up after such a tragedy, but Romelo was driven to go harder. Every time he laces up his sneakers and hits the court, he does so in memory of his Mom. He even wears #33, which is the age she died.
“The day she pretty much knew she was going to pass away, she told me to keep on going — so I stuck with it.”
Romelo tells me a lot of people don’t know his journey, including some of his teammates. For him, it’s about the big picture. It’s about remembering a promise to the woman who raised him, loved him and motivated him to be the best.
“It’s much deeper than basketball. People think I just play because I love it. I do love it, but nobody knows why. I remember it like it was yesterday, though. I was in the living room, (Mom) was on the couch. I came to sit with her, she put her hand on me, looked me in the eye and told me straight up: ‘No matter what happens, just stay in school, stay humble, keep play basketball and chase your dreams.’ Ever since then, I kept that with me and kept on playing.”
Romelo is also focused in the classroom. The sophomore is studying Communications at UNF, with plans to do something in that field. I admire him because he doesn’t make excuses. He’s using life experiences to mold his steps and propel towards his destiny. I asked him how he wants to be remembered when it’s all said and done.
The answer was simple, yet profound.
“I don’t think I’d be the man I am today (without my trials). Don’t think I would have matured as fast. Everything happens for a reason, and I matured very quickly. Regardless of sports, or anything I do: I want people to know me as a person who worked through everything, never gave up and has a really strong work ethic.”
To follow Romelo and his team’s journey, check them out on Twitter: @OspreyMBB and on the web at: http://www.unfospreys.com/news/2014/12/8/MBB_1208144245.aspx?path=mbball