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In a city of out-of-towners, it is refreshing that Nevada-Las Vegas will be guided by someone who has lived there all his life. Junior guard Freddie Banks has gained 15 pounds "so I won't get beat on," but, at 6'2", 171 pounds, he still can't shake his nickname, Skeleton.
Banks has two roles with the Runnin' Rebels. "On the floor I have to let the team know what game Coach wants us to run," says Banks. Off the floor he guides his teammates around Vegas. Banks led the PCAA in assists last year with 6.1 per game and is intent on graduating with his academic class, an unusual accomplishment for a UNLV player. Banks knows that Vegas life has its distractions, so he tries to prepare his teammates, many of whom are juco transfers, for the rowdy fans who pour into games at the Thomas and Mack Center. "They can be wild," he says. "So I tell the team that if they can get used to it here, playing in front of crowds on the road will be easy."
The offense Banks leads includes seniors Anthony Jones and Armon (Hammer) Gilliam. Jones, a 6'6" swingman, should provide scoring from the perimeter. The 6'8" Gilliam is the inside force; they don't call him the Hammer for nothing. Says Banks, "Armon will take down a rebound and go right back up with the ball. He's likely to take a player along with him." Eldridge (El Hut) Hudson and Richard Robinson complete the front line.
Last year the Thomas and Mack fans rigged a multicolored strobe light-emitting spoon to honor the departing Frank (Spoon) James. This season, rumor has it, a hammer is going up. That would be appropriate because UNLV will be hammering opponents all the way to the NCAA tournament.