Bane’s basketball journey takes the scenic route to Big 12 Player of the Week

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TCU guard Desmond Bane soars to the hoop during his 26-point performance that led to a two-point victory over Oklahoma State. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Junior guard Desmond Bane earned his first Big 12 award for TCU this week as he was named the conference player of the week.

Before he was earning accolades for the Horned Frogs, Bane wasn’t even sure if he would play college basketball.

The talented athlete from the basketball-crazed state of Indiana almost didn’t even wind up at TCU.

Now, he’s the Horned Frogs’ leading scorer as well as one of their leaders, as TCU attempts to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1952-1953.

“Desmond is one guy we don’t have to worry about motivation, he’s in the gym endlessly, he’s working hard, and he’s gotten better for us defensively,” head coach Jamie Dixon said. “And, he’s a great leader. I’m really looking forward to the growth of this team.”

The Richmond, Indiana native averaged 21.5 points in leading TCU to a 2-0 week which included a win at No. 17 Iowa State, the Frogs’ first win over a ranked team on the road in 21 years. He tied a season-high with 26 points, on 6-9 shooting from the three-point line in their win over Oklahoma State on Feb. 6. He followed up that performance with 17 in the victory over Iowa State on Feb. 9.

Bane’s basketball career started early in his great-grandparents’ living room at the age of three.

“His mom wasn’t quite grown up yet, so we just decided to take him in and take care of him,” Fabbie Bane, Desmond’s great-grandmother said. “He was two years old when we took him, and we had a basketball hoop set up in the living room. Des gravitated toward it.”

Desmond almost didn’t even choose basketball as his primary sport when the time came to dedicate himself to just one his sophomore year of high school.

He was good at football, basketball and baseball. His great-grandparents’ attic is lined with the numerous home run balls he hit during his baseball days.

“When he told me he didn’t want to play football or baseball anymore, I hated to see him give it up, but I could see why,” Bob Bane, Desmond’s great-grandfather said. “We’ve got a goal for him out here in the street, and he would shoot three-pointers from way out in the street.”

After Desmond made the decision to stay on the hardwood, he went through the difficult realization that schools in his home state of Indiana weren’t going to come calling as he put up huge numbers for Seton Catholic High School, a 1-A classification school — the lowest in the state. Bane averaged 30 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.2 blocks per game during his senior year, leading his team to a 23-4 record with a regional appearance. He even posted a 62-point effort his senior season, yet no one in state reached out.

“Growing up looking at the candy cane stripes playing at IU, it’s just like every kid’s dream pretty much, and then the Purdue is there, a program that Matt Painter has done a great job with to get them going, and Notre Dame’s one of the best schools for academics and their basketball program was thriving just a few years ago, any of them would have been great,” he said.

Not even Indiana State, a team TCU has defeated twice this season, once by 20 in Fort Worth and again by 14 at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, offered Bane a spot.

“You don’t get the same respect and the same love being at the level where Seton Catholic was, so I mean we had to go out and win some games and prove to people that we were as good as we as we were and it worked out for the best,” Bane said.

His first Division 1 offer came in November of his senior year from Furman, a member of the Southern Conference.

“It was pretty late my first Division 1 offer, Furman in South Carolina, I took a visit down there,” he said. “They have a really beautiful campus, good coaching staff too, so I got them, a couple more mid-majors throughout the year and there were some high-majors flirting with me. So I waited and waited and waited, and they didn’t end up coming. I was going to commit to Miami Ohio, a little school in the back right down the road from from my house.”

Miami of Ohio would have been a safe choice since it was only 30 minutes from Desmond’s childhood home. However, his family wasn’t sure that was the right move.

“They wanted him so bad, and it was like playing out of your backyard,” Bob Bane said. “He would want to come back here a lot, and since he really wanted to make it to the highest level, we wanted to support him in that.”

Desmond’s great-grandparents wanted him to take him all over to play basketball, so they traveled to Dallas for the Adidas Gauntlet tournament, one of the bigger AAU events. That’s where he became a target on TCU’s radar.

“First, we saw him as a high character guy, which is very important for us, and his high school coaches, AAU coaches and everyone else had high praise for him,” TCU associate head basketball coach Ryan Miller said. “It was at the Adidas Gauntlet tournament in Dallas, so there’s a lot of high major teams and players who were competing, so watching him play against those guys, guys who are going to play in the Big 12 and recruits that are going to play in these other major conferences, and he was doing well to where he was one of the leading scorers in the Adidas Gauntlet. We thought he could fit in here and do well here.”

His Horned Frog recruitment came together abruptly just before he graduated high school.

“Coach Dixon came calling to get me down on a visit ASAP,” Bane said. “I came out, loved it, and jumped out on a limb to come down here about two weeks before I graduated high school. I graduated and then next day after I graduated, I had to be here on campus.”

Immediately, he was thrown into the fire, averaging 20 minutes a game for the Horned Frogs during their NIT Championship run his freshman season while putting up seven points per game and shooting 77 percent at the free throw line to go along with 38 percent shooting from three.

“I didn’t necessarily expect it coming in, but I knew I could to be a part of this team and be on the floor, and I mean it happened for the best since I was able to play in and win championship games with a bunch of older guys while learning from them,” he said.

Two of the seniors his freshman year, Brandon Parrish and Karviar Shepherd, made an effort to mentor Bane.

“They really just took us under their wing and taught us how to be great men and great basketball players,” Bane said. “They’re just so level-headed. They were never going to be caught off the court and getting in trouble, and good game or bad game there, you’re never really going to be able to tell the difference in their attitude and mood. They’re just really level-headed guys and always encouraging everyone around him to be the best version of themselves.”

Bane said he learned how to be a more hands-on team leader from last year’s seniors Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams.

“I saw from Kenrich Williams and Vlad how to lead a team and how to really get a group of guys to buy in together to reach one goal, and that’s something that I took from them and something I’m trying to instill into some of these other guys we have on our roster,” he said.

TCU’s Desmond Bane (1) drives to the basket past Georgia Tech’s Quinton Stephens, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the final of the NIT Thursday, March 30, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

As his leadership role has grown, so has his on-court performance. Bane leads the Horned Frogs in scoring with 15.2 points per game while hitting nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers and nearly 90 percent of his free throws.

“I let things like schools not recruiting me or accolades other people get and I don’t receive fuel me,” Bane said. “I always find ways and my family back home helps, they keep me hungry and humble. I feel like once guys reach a certain level they begin to get comfortable and that’s something that I feel isn’t in my DNA, being comfortable. I always want to strive to be better and improve.”

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon presents Bane with a commemorative basketball after he broke the 1,000-point plateau in his Horned Frog career prior to Monday’s game against Kansas. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

That sentiment doesn’t surprise his family one bit.

“We raised a great, hard-working, and respectful young man,” Bob Bane said. “He has given TCU back what they’ve put in him, and that’s big time to me. They didn’t blow or waste it on him.”