Davon Banks was off the recruiting radar for a reason.
Two reasons, actually.
1.) Banks — who committed to, then signed with, Washington last week — tore the same meniscus twice in the same year, forcing him to miss all but two games of his junior season as well as the following spring. And, according to 247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins, “that’s your big year for recruiting. Junior year is even bigger than senior year when it comes to getting on the radar.”
2.) As a COVID precaution, Banks’ senior season was pushed to the spring of 2021 — after both traditional signing periods had passed, meaning colleges had almost unanimously completed their classes.
Which is how an unduly anonymous corner from a small school 70 miles east of Anaheim failed to receive a star ranking or a scholarship offer.
Until, when they realized they had room on their roster, the Huskies remembered a kid who had impressed at the University of Redlands recruiting camp in 2019.
“(UW running backs coach and former recruiting coordinator Keith Bhonapha) called me I think two months ago and said they had a spot open, and they remembered Davon from camp,” recalled San Jacinto head coach Aric Galliano. “I told them where he was at and how he was doing grades-wise. Our season was getting ready to kick off and he said, ‘OK, just keep me updated and we’ll see how this thing plays out.’”
For the 6-foot, 185-pound Banks, it played out with panache. In a five-game spring season, the Mountain Pass League MVP registered 19 tackles, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and an interception, while adding 11 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns on offense. He also produced a prolific finale — totaling four catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including scores of 39 and 85 yards, while adding a 92-yard kickoff return touchdown in a 35-21 victory over Citrus Hill on April 17. (Two more touchdowns, including a 99-yard pick-six, were negated by penalties.)
“His last two games of that shortened season,” Galliano said, “he just exploded.”
The same can be said of Banks’ spring track season, when he set a school record with a 10.78-second 100-meter dash — while winning league titles in the 100 meters, 200 meters and the high jump.
All of which culminated in the same University of Redlands recruiting camp on June 9, when Banks impressed UW’s coaching staff (again).
They offered. He committed.
The recruiting sites scrambled.
“He was off the radar, honestly,” Biggins said. “It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that, right? He’s in my own backyard, essentially. Southern California is my region. I had heard about him as a sophomore, and then he completely fell off for me.
“So (after the injuries and postponed senior season) he was kind of just out of sight, out of mind. Then all of a sudden I’m seeing that he committed and my first thought was, ‘Oh, I remember that guy from a couple years ago. That’s a pretty solid preferred walk-on for UW.’ Then I go, wait, this is actually a commitment. I hit up (defensive backs coach) Will Harris at UW. And he’s like, ‘No, he’s a dude for us.’”
According to Galliano, that dude can do just about everything.
“He’s going to bring speed,” he said. “He’s very athletic. He’s football smart, and he’s not afraid to come down and hit you either. That’s the one thing that separates him from a lot of people: he’s not afraid of contact. And he has great ball skills. He played wideout for us. So I think they got a good one.”
The film said the same.
On the morning of June 16 — the day he announced his commitment — Banks lacked a profile picture, a star ranking or a scholarship offer in the 247Sports database.
A day later, he was assigned a recruiting ranking of 89, a single percentage point from four-star status. (For context, UW’s other 2021 cornerback signees — Zakhari Spears and Dyson McCutcheon — also earned an 89 each.)
It’s as if a Ferrari sped out of Biggins’ blind spot.
“I did some background and went out and watched his season highlights with one of our guys from Texas who’s on our rankings team, and we’re both going, ‘This guy is, like, legit. He’s got length. He’s fast. He’s quick. He has ball skills. He has short-area burst. This guy has almost everything you could possibly want,’” Biggins said.
“We’ve always been big on two-sport athletes, but especially if you’re a skill guy, that verified speed you see in track. He goes out and he ran a 10.78 (100 meters). So he’s 6 feet, long arms, 10.78, making plays with the tape on. He essentially was someone who we were trying to figure out, ‘How high can we rank this guy without ever seeing him live and in person?’
“I thought he was just a really good late pickup. Man, he’s got a nice skill set and a nice package, for sure.”
Galliano knew it. The Huskies knew it.
And in any other year, they wouldn’t be alone.
“In a normal year where he had a fall season and now he’s playing well and now he’s on the radar, 100% he’s getting noticed by a lot more than Washington,” Biggins said. “But it just happened to be bad luck for him. He’s having this really big year, and then track comes around, and it’s too late … except for Washington. And that’s like a dream school for him. It worked out perfectly for both sides.”
It worked out well for both Washington and Banks — who transferred to San Jacinto in his sophomore season after previously living in San Diego, where both his parents were deployed in the Navy.
It worked out well for Galliano, too.
“I was ecstatic not only for him, but for our community,” he said. “We’re a small community within southern California, in between Riverside and Temecula. His childhood friend (San Jacinto quarterback Kajiya Hollawayne) left early to sign with UCLA. So to have two Pac-12 guys from that team, they set the standard for our program and where I’m trying to get the program to.
“So I was extremely happy for him, seeing all the hard work that he’s put in, from being injured to going through (a season delayed by) COVID. It made me extremely happy and proud that he was able to fight through it and someone’s giving him a chance.”