Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Even though Trinity Valley Community College teammates Bazie Bates IV and D’Andre Banks committed to the Kansas University football program six months apart, the two friends and teammates spent plenty of time talking about the Jayhawks during the wait.
Bates, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound defensive back who signed his national letter of intent with Kansas on Wednesday, was the first to commit. He visited KU last summer and saw all he needed to see to pledge his services to the program.
“There are so many great people in the KU program and in Lawrence itself,” Bates said. “And I feel like going there will help me become a better person overall.”
At the time, Banks, a 6-3, 320-pound offensive lineman, had committed to Louisiana-Lafayette but was thrilled for his friend and held out hope that he, too, eventually would get an offer from a program in a big-time conference. KU’s coaching search delayed things a bit, but shortly after David Beaty was named the Jayhawks’ new coach, Beaty made a trip down to Trinity Valley to visit Bates. It was on that visit that he learned about Banks.
“I think people kind of slept on him,” Bates said of Banks. “When coach Beaty came down, he was talking about how they needed offensive linemen and I told him about D’Andre and he watched his tape and liked what he saw and talked to him after our visit.”
Things moved quickly from there, as Banks set up an official visit for last weekend and committed just hours after the visit ended.
“He was giving me updates all weekend,” Bates joked. “I gave him the gist of what to look for, and when he went up there he saw it all and loved it.”
Although he loved the facilities, enjoyed the players and coaches he met and was more impressed by Lawrence than he expected to be, Banks said one aspect of what KU had to offer made it a no-brainer decision.
“I feel like I can play at any level,” he said. “But it was a relief. You work so hard for a Big 12 or SEC offer and when you finally get it, it’s like, ‘Wow, all the hard work’s paid off.’”
Like Bates, Banks signed his letter of intent Wednesday on mid-year transfer signing day, making their commitments to Kansas official. Both guys signed early in the morning and spent the rest of the day celebrating.
Although they won’t report to campus for another four weeks, both said the chance to put this part of the process behind them eased their minds and had them counting down the days already. The two plan to room together during their time at KU and also hope to make an impact right away.
“Any time you can go somewhere with some teammates and some friends that you already know, it’s always a big plus,” Banks said. “I’m just ready to get to KU and start the grind.”
Added Bates: “It just feels like a big weight off my shoulders and I can take a deep breath and just relax because I know where I’m going now.”
Late Wednesday night, news broke on JayhawkSlant.com that another Trinity Valley player had planned to join Banks and Bates with the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Stewart, a 5-11, 175-pound cornerback who appeared to be headed to California, switched his commitment to Kansas. KU got in on Stewart late, but his fast bond with Beaty and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen played a big role in Kansas landing him. So, too, did another relationship from Beaty’s past. Stewart’s Cedar Hill (Texas) High coach, Joey McGuire, and Beaty are close friends.
“I just made my decision today and I told coach Beaty I wanted to go to KU,” Stewart told JayhawkSlant. “Coach Beaty was excited when I told him. Coach Bowen was fired up and happy for me. We were joking about who is happier and I think he was.”
Stewart recorded 52 tackles and snagged three interceptions last season and also had offers from East Carolina and Louisville.
“We are really pleased with all of the guys we’re able to have join our program today,” Beaty said in a news release Wednesday night. “I said when I came here that we want to build our program on high school players, and that is certainly the long-term vision. With these eight players signed today, we have addressed some of our immediate needs. Having the opportunity to get these guys on campus in January is crucial for our team moving forward.”
Five other future Jayhawks got the chance to feel the same way on Wednesday after they signed their letters of intent, and all seven guys are expected to arrive on campus in January and be ready for spring football. Joining Banks and Bates in signing on the dotted line Wednesday were:
— Jacky Dezir, a 6-3, 305-pound, two-star defensive lineman from College of DuPage, who committed to KU in early June and drew interest from Illinois, Minnesota and Northern Illinois.
— Ke’aun Kinner, a 5-10, 185-pound, three-star running back from Navarro Junior College, who committed to KU earlier this week and was named a first-team Juco All-American on Tuesday.
— M.J. Mathis, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound, three-star cornerback with a good mix of physical presence and legit speed, who picked KU over Kentucky.
— Jayson Rhodes, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound offensive guard from Blinn College who had offers from Grambling State, Hampton, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss and UT-San Antonio.
— Will Smith, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound, three-star offensive guard from Butler Community College, who committed to KU in early June and drew interest from North Texas and Iowa.