Auburn Duo Step Into Key Roles At Nic Banks, Jacques Get Attention For Being Mostly Unnoticed

Mandy Jacques was voted the most athletic girl at Auburn (Wash.) High School. Cameron Banks was voted most athletic boy.

So they got along well, right?

“I hated him,” Jacques said.

After prodding, Jacques admits she was mad because her boyfriend at the time was Cameron’s best buddy.

“And he’d always hang with me,” Banks interjects.

Banks and Jacques have solved that problem, now. They hang out together at North Idaho College and have helped their respective basketball teams to outstanding seasons.

Banks starts at forward for the secondplace NIC men. The 16th-ranked Cardinals (19-3 overall, 10-3 Scenic West Athletic Conference), have a showdown against No. 14 Eastern Utah (21-3, 10-2) Thursday night at 7:30 in Christianson Gym.

Jacques is a starting guard for the 16th-ranked, first-place NIC women (21-2, 11-2). They face Eastern Utah (13-11, 5-7) Thursday at 5:30.

Banks and Jacques bring similar qualities to their teams: The intense and effort-conscious duo do many of the unnoticed, but essential, little things that add up to wins. Both excel in transition.

“They’re both athletic and competitive,” women’s coach Greg Crimp said.

Even their stats are similar. Banks contributes 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, shoots 47 percent from the field and 39 percent on 3-pointers. Jacques averages 11.1 points and 3.4 rebounds, shoots 45 percent, including 35 on 3s.

Grade-point averages: Both above 3.0.

Banks played last season at Tacoma Community College. He started dating Jacques roughly a year ago and transferred to NIC for his sophomore season.

Reasons? “NIC was more of a school atmosphere, (better) basketball, Mandy, and to get away from home,” said Banks, in no particular order.

Banks has already committed to play at the University of Idaho next year.

“He’s one of those kids that doesn’t cause any trouble, you never have to worry about his grades and he shows up to practice to work hard every day,” men’s coach Hugh Watson said. “He’s a pleasure.”

Jacques played effectively off the bench in NIC’s 20-9 season last year, but she wanted to make more of an impact. She decided to do something about it.

“My dad told me about a guy whose goal was to make 10,000 3-pointers before the next season,” Jacques said. “Me and (teammate) Julie Grohs tried to do that. We got to like 4,000.”

The difference has been noticeable.

“She has a lot more confidence and offensively she’s much more of a threat,” assistant coach Kristi Johnson said.

Jacques ranks 13th in the SWAC in 3-point percentage. She also is in the top 12 in scoring, assists and steals.

Those numbers apparently haven’t impressed many coaches at four-year colleges.

“I think she’s being overlooked,” Crimp said. “She can help a lot of people.”

Neither Banks nor Jacques are surprised by their teams’ records.

“Everyone contributes,” she said. “We don’t have to rely on one person and we get along perfectly. Our whole team is really good friends.”

The men aren’t quite as harmonious, but they’ve still put together a title run.

“We lack a ton of size, but we’ve made up for it with speed,” Banks said. “We just have to play our game - up-tempo with good defense.”

Banks certainly provides that. So does Jacques.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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