Okotokian ball hawk to swim with Dolphins
Lacrosse: Raymond Banister earns scholarship to Division 1 school
Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012 06:00 am
An Okotoks lacrosse player will be swimming with Division 1 Dolphins in September.
Okotoks native Raymond Banister accepted a scholarship to play field lacrosse for the Jacksonville University Dolphins, a NCAA school competing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).
“I went down to Jacksonville about a month ago now and it was unbelievable just spending a couple days out there and being able to see them play,” Banister said. “Once I came home it was pretty clear that was the place I wanted to be.”
“It’s Division 1 which is amazing and they’ve got a really great marine biology program which I’m really excited about, it’s a big interest of mine.”
Banister, a product of the Okotoks Mustangs box lacrosse program and the son of former Calgary Roughnecks owner Brad Banister, has been sharpening his field lacrosse game at Vaughan, Ontario’s Hill Academy for two and a half years. He credited Hill Academy coach Brodie Merrill for getting his name out.
“It was a long process for me,” Banister said. “I came here to Hill Academy worked with Brodie Merrill and Patrick Merrill and they introduced me to the field game.
“I didn’t really start talking to any of the schools until the beginning of this year because they wanted me to develop and get my game ready. Once it started this year it was just a matter of getting exposure mainly, you’ve got to get out and go into tournaments and showcase yourself a little bit and catch the eye of some coaches.”
The Okotokian said the Dolphins’ brass reached out to his coaches at the Hill Academy and inquired about a specific type of player to fill their roster needs for the 2012-13 season.
“They were talking to my coaches here at the Hill Academy and they heard some good things,” Banister said. “I think my coach just got a call from Jacksonville and a spot opened up for a long-stick midfield and I believe they asked if they had any people of interest.”
Banister lived with Hill Academy coach Brodie Merrill, an accomplished veteran of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and two-time winner of the NLL’s transition player of the year, for four months.
“There was a point in the year where they sat me down and we had a meeting and there was a pretty big heart to heart and it was a pretty big shocker,” Banister said. “I was having trouble gaining weight, having trouble making these bigger steps as a player and it was just a huge wake-up call.”
Banister’s response to being challenged endeared him to his coach, he said.
“I did everything from changing my diet and even changing where I worked hard in training,” Banister said. “And I think that’s what caught my coach’s eye and that’s what kind of convinced him to let the Jacksonville coach know about me.”
Banister is no stranger to the Okotoks lacrosse scene. He enjoyed his 2011-12 rookie campaign with the Okotoks Junior A Raiders alongside older brother Mitchell who was completing his Junior swan song as a 21-year-old. Raymond played in one game in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Junior A Raiders.
Banister played in just four regular season contests for the Raiders, but suited up for nine postseason games, tallying two assists and collecting 22 loose balls. Banister was also on the Raiders’ Minto Cup roster. He savoured the experience at the 2011 Junior A Lacrosse Championships in Okotoks.
“To be honest, the Minto Cup last year was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had as a lacrosse player,” Banister said. “Obviously you take it one game at a time, but the biggest goal is the Minto Cup.”
Banister is optimistic the returning players on the Raiders can use the experience at the Junior A national championships to their benefit in the 2012 campaign.
“From the experience last year and the leadership we had on the team last year I think it’s just going to pass over and it’s exciting,” Banister said. “We’re going to have a lot of new guys coming in and it’s going to be a new feeling so I’m really excited, I think our chances are great this season.”