Many athletes take different routes to college. Some take years off of school, and others go to compete at the collegiate level straight out of high school. Greenville Men’s basketball players, Eric Williams and Dustin Bankowski, are two young men that took the junior college road before competing at the Division III level.
Williams was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee by Vickie and Anthony Williams. Growing up, Williams explained that his love for basketball didn’t start until about his freshman year in high school. Unfortunately, Williams didn’t make his middle school basketball team. Williams says, “I trained my butt off until I felt confident to compete with kids in high school.” Williams always had a passion for the game of basketball, but never felt like he had the skills to compete at a high level.
All this began to change for Williams when he entered high school. Williams was named Defensive Player of the Year all four years of high school. This is a huge accomplishment. Rarely does anyone hear of this generation taking pride in defense. After high school, Williams was blessed with a scholarship from a junior college, Rend Lake College. Williams only played his freshman year because of unfortunate injuries. Instead of quitting, Williams was determined to prove his peers wrong. The following year Williams transferred to Carl Sandburg College.
Williams states, “The JUCO experience was really challenging for me, JUCO is very competitive.” The JUCO experience made Williams into the player that he is today. Williams feels like every time he steps onto the basketball court, he has something to prove. Williams also commented, “The JUCO experience was definitely a big change in my life as a basketball player but without my JUCO experience I wouldn’t be the player I’m now!”
The Junior College experience helped Williams develop his mental toughness, and gave him enough in-game experience to feel as if he would be able to conquer anything on the hardwood. When it’s time to make a clutch play, coaches know they can depend on Williams to make the best decision for the team. Williams wanted to be a part of something a little bigger, and wanted to see were his skills would fit in with players at a Division III level. This is when Williams decided to transfer to Greenville University. Williams has become a huge impact on the Greenville community since his arrival. He has participated in being a mentor to kids at Greenville High School. People around the community really appreciate what Williams is doing to try and help young athletes follow their basketball dreams just as he did.
Dustin Bankowski’s transition from high school to a junior college in the west coast was a huge jump for other areas in the United States. Bankowski says, “I prepared all summer and still wasn’t the fastest or strongest or the best player on the team!” Bankowski attended Glendale Community College in Glendale Arizona. At the beginning of his freshman year, his head coach ended up leaving the school which put Bankowski and other players on the team in a scramble. Many has to decide whether to transfer out or continue to play under a new head coach. Bankowski ended up staying at GCC, but that year the team would go 2-14 and finish at the bottom of the conference.
The following year, Bankowski would lead the team in overall in efficiency rating, shooting 37% from the three-point line. Bankowski was a two-year captain for the team, and in his final year, he led the team to their first playoff appearance in five years!
During an interview, Bankowski said, “Overall, my junior college experience crafted me into the man I am today and helped me get to Greenville University.” This season, Eric Williams and Dustin Bankowski were a huge part of the Panthers’ success. Williams averaged 14.2 points per game during his senior season, and Bankowski averaging 3.9 assists for his junior year.