N  I  A  G  A  R  A     G  A  Z  E  T  T  E      niagara-gazette.com

March 23, 2010

GIRLS BASKETBALL: GI's Banker repeats as Gazette POY

By Nate Beutel Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — There’s no rest for the weary. At least not for Kallie Banker.

This past weekend, less than a week after dropping a heartbreaker in the Class A Far West Regional, the Grand Island sophomore was back on the court in AAU action. Yesterday, she began her personal speed and strength workouts with Tony Surace. Soon, she will be back in the gym for her own shooting workouts.

It’s that type of dedication to the sport that has helped her earn Niagara Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Of course a stat line that compares favorably to anyone in Western New York doesn’t hurt. Banker averaged 16.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.0 steals and 3.0 rebounds per game, leading the Vikings to their second consecutive Class A-1 championship, an overall Class A title and an appearance in the Far West Regional.

“It’s a lot easier to coach when you have a point guard (like Banker),” GI coach Jen Banker said of her daughter. “She’s comfortable with the ball, she handles pressure well, she makes good decisions and she’s able to score now regardless of how teams defend her.”

And during GI’s run to Rochester, Banker saw every junk defense in the book. Instead of forcing things, though, Banker remained poised, often hitting the open player or getting creative with her shot. She heavily relied upon the many hours she spent last offseason working on quickness, strength, elevation, step-backs, pull-ups etc…

“I tried to enhance my all-around offensive game and I think it helped me a lot this season,” she said.

The elder Banker added, “She added some nice depth to her game this year.”

The same could be said for a number of Banker’s teammates, which bodes well for the future of the program. The Vikings return four of five starters to a team that came within seconds of advancing to the school’s first state tournament.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over that loss until I’m in that states round,” Banker said. “Hopefully we can get there next year.”

Her mother agreed.

“It’s exciting to think about (next season),” the coach said. “This year it took a long time to get things where we wanted them to be… but hopefully we can start there next year and just move forward.”