Apr 2, 2012 10:57 PM by Jordan Mason
NEW ORLEANS, La. (GoThunderWolves.com - April 2, 2012) - Former Colorado State University-Pueblo women's basketball coach, Jessie Banks, is headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the All-American Red Heads, a trailblazing group of women's basketball players which travelled the nation as the female equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters from 1936 through 1986.
The All American Red Heads were the first women's professional basketball team, regularly playing more than 200 games per season, winning 70 percent of them while touring thousands of miles, reaching 49 states, Canada and the Philippines. Over six decades (from 1936 to 1986), the team broke social barriers and stereotypes playing in small towns and rural hamlets, as well as Madison Square Garden and Chicago Stadium.
Banks was a member of the All-American Red Heads from 1954-59, travelling with the barnstroming group to various locations across the country where it would play teams of men - and usually win - while also inspiring a generation of burgeoning female athletes with the sport of basketball. Banks was part of the first group of Red Heads to travel to Alaska for an exhibition, and travelled to countless other locales for competitions.
After the Red Heads' 1959 season, Banks quit the team to start college and focus on her education, narrowly focused on the goal of becoming a coach. She started the women's athletics program at Colorado State University-Pueblo (then known as Southern Colorado State College) in 1966, focusing largely on the school's basketball program and helming the team from 1966 through 1985. In that time, she was a crucial component in the formation of the American Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the original governing body for women's athletics in the 1970s and 1980s before the NCAA and the NAIA formally sponsored women's competition and championships. In 1975, she also spearheaded the formation of the AIAW Small College National Tournament, holding the first tournament in CSU-Pueblo's Massari Arena, and giving small schools across the country a chance to win a national title without competing against large Division I schools.
Today, Banks continues to be an instrumental part of the All-American Red Heads' ongoing reunion efforts and outreach, and was a main driving force behind the team being submitted for inclusion in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. She currently resides in Pueblo and is still a major part of the CSU-Pueblo athletic program. The award and scholarship for the top female student-athlete at CSU-Pueblo bears her name.
The All-American Red Heads' induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, coming during the 75th anniversary of the team's creation in 1936, marks a historic achievement as it is the first women's basketball team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The All-American Red Heads were selected to the Hall of Fame by the Naismith Hall of Fame Women's Committee.
The Red Heads will be inducted alongside other Class of 2012 inductees, which include five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller, the NBA's all-time winningest coach Don Nelson, three-time National College Player of the Year Ralph Sampson, two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain, distinguished basketball official and coordinator Hank Nichols, and former college and NBA star Jamaal Wilkes. They join the five directly elected members who were announced during the NBA All-Star Weekend in February by distinguished committees focused on preserving all areas from the game of basketball. These direct-elects include Mel Daniels, voted in from the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Don Barksdale from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee, Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Phil Knight from the Contributor Direct Election Committee.
To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Starting last year, the addition of the direct elect committees were incorporated into the election process to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting procedures and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball.
The Class of 2012 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass. on Friday, September 7. Ticket packages to the 2012 Enshrinement Ceremony and all Enshrinement Events are on sale now and available by calling the Hall of Fame at (413) 231-5540. Additional information on Enshrinement Week will be announced in the near future, and information will be available at http://www.hoophall.com/enshrinement-tickets/