By RON FANFAIR
Jimmy “JC” Banks comes from good stock. Selected eighth by Toronto FC in last month’s Major League Soccer (MLS) supplemental draft, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay midfielder is following the footsteps of his father and namesake who represented the United States in the 1990 World Cup and was among the honourees in the “Decade of U.S. Soccer” celebration held in Washington in 2002.
As one of the most talented players to come out of Milwaukee, the senior Banks was an All-American forward at Custer High School in 1981 and an All-American selection in 1985 and 1986 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
A U.S. team member for six years, during which time he secured 35 caps and played in the 1990 World Cup which marked the Americans’ first appearance in the finals in four decades, the central defender went on to play six seasons with the Milwaukee Wave in the U.S. indoor league, scoring 31 goals and 29 assists in 136 games.
He captained the Wave from 1990-1993 and was a league All-Star in 1992.
Banks, who holds an education degree and United States Soccer Federation (USSF) -A coaching license, is the Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club’s director of coaching and the head of the Milwaukee School of Engineering soccer program since 1999, the same year he was inducted into his alma mater’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
The 46-year-old Banks made his international debut against Canada in a three-team series that also included Uruguay at the Orange Bowl in Miami in February 1986. The game ended in a nil-all draw.
“Although 1986 was a long time ago, I never forget that feeling I had when I received a phone call from then national coach Lothar Osiander,” Banks, who started an inner-city youth soccer camp and volunteered with the Milwaukee Boys and Girls Club, told Share. “I was so excited to represent the U.S. team against Canada and will never forget how proud I was to wear a USA uniform for the first time.”
He and defender/midfielder Desmond Armstrong were the only Black players in the U.S. 1990 World Cup side.
The younger Banks was one of 54 college seniors from 36 Division One schools invited to the MLS Combine earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He scored 35 goals and recorded 18 assists in his four seasons with his university team.
“JC being selected by Toronto FC is an honour and testament of his hard work and dedication,” said his university coach, Tom Poitras. “He has some great options for starting his professional career and Toronto FC could be a great fit.”
JC Banks was one of four players selected in the supplemental draft held this year as a result of the expansion of developmental rosters and reserve teams. There was no draft in the last two years.
The other players picked are midfielders Spencer Thompson from Michigan State University and Scott Rojo from High Point University and Northern Kentucky University striker Steven Beattie.
“These are players who have shown good potential,” said Toronto FC director of player development, Paul Mariner. “We will evaluate them and see where they fit into our plans as we move forward towards the new season.”
The older Banks said his son started kicking a soccer ball as soon as he was able to take his first steps when he was just 10 months old.
“I have never forced him to play the sport,” he said. “He developed the love for the game by just playing and having fun with the ball. He was very athletic and played many sports while growing up. He was good at basketball, football and baseball, but he may have been guided in the direction of soccer because he was in a soccer environment and he attended games, camps and clinics with me.
“He’s a very coachable kid and he understands the hard work ahead of him to make a roster spot with a pro club. It would be great to see him develop as a top player and get a shot at securing a spot with the U.S. national team pool. As his father, I want him to play at his highest potential possible whatever possible that might be.”
The junior Banks was a member of last season’s Chicago Fire team which participated in the Great Lakes Division of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League. The division also includes the Toronto Lynx and Forest City London.
Toronto FC selected midfielders Matt Gold and Junior Burgos, forward Joao Plata and defender Demitruis Omphroy in the MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore last month.