But two players on the Northwest Trappers men’s basketball team who grew up on the rural courts of the Cowboy State are doing their best to leave a mark on the program.
For Big Piney native Jordan Banks, basketball has been a way of life since he started playing in third grade. Through the 2017 portion of the 2017-18 season, the redshirt freshman is averaging 6.3 points and 17 minutes per game; he credits his father as having the biggest influence on his basketball career.
“My dad helped me get started and taught me all the fundamentals to the game,” Banks said. “I really enjoyed playing because it gave me something to work at.”
Banks, who was named 2A Southwest Player of the Year at Big Piney High School, knew matriculating from a small town (pop. 552) would be a difficult sell for college coaches. If he was going to play at the next level, he would have to work.
“I played varsity all four years in high school and it challenged me at an early age to be determined and perseverant,” Banks said. “Playing college basketball was always a dream of mine, so I’m thankful for every day I get to participate.”
NWC head coach Brian Erickson said Banks is beginning to establish himself as a leader on the team this season, and one he can count on to make plays.
“I think this early, he’s been our most consistent guy on both ends of the floor,” Erickson said. “Offensively, his strongest point is his shot, but he’s also pretty crafty with the basketball. He can do some different things, he’s a solid guy all around and always plays really hard.”
Banks had a family connection to NWC, making the decision to attend a little easier. His cousin was former Trapper Tyler Chandler, a member of the 2014 Region IX championship team, and members of his extended family live in Powell.
“[Chandler] had good things to say about the school, the basketball program and coach Erickson,” Banks said. “Also, I liked my tour and it felt like the right fit.”
So far, Banks said his time at NWC has been positive, on and off the court.
“I’ve enjoyed the experience so far, more so than basketball I’ve met some great people and made some lifelong friends,” he said. “I like playing for coach Erickson because he pushes us to get better and he is never satisfied with what we do. ... He’s always pushing us to accomplish more because he knows we can. I think that is one of the good traits he has.”
Coach Erickson said Banks brings a blue-collar work ethic to the court every day.
“Jordan is a culture guy; he fits what we need,” Erickson said. “He’s just a positive guy. He’s unselfish, he has his role and he knows what it is. He just does his job every day.”
The last two seasons have been filled with memories for the elementary education major, but one stands out for him in particular: Bragging rights over a teammate last season.
“The most memorable part of my experience so far was probably beating [former Trapper and current University of Wisconsin-Green Bay standout] Sukh Bains one-on-one,” Banks said. “Now I’m able to tell people I beat a D1 player in one-on-one.”
Mysen McArthur’s road to Northwest College had a few more twists and turns, including a stint in Houston, Texas, as part of a church mission. Growing up as a gym rat in Lovell, NWC was always on his radar.
“I started playing when I was in the third grade for our town’s rec league,” McArthur said. “Ever since I was small, I had a natural love for the sport. I have in my journal an entry about when I was about 3 years old I would get a basketball, throw it, then watch it bounce and while it bounced I’d juke my head back and forth as if I was dribbling.”
By middle school, McArthur made the decision to focus on basketball, forgoing other sports in an effort to hone his game.
“I really got into it by the seventh grade, and that is when I started to focus on just basketball,” he explained. “In high school, I ran cross country to avoid injury from football and to get into shape for basketball. During the summers, I would get up in the morning and go shooting in the gym while people swam. I carried a ball with me wherever I went in hopes that I could somehow connect myself with it so that I could master it and have it become a part of my own body.”
Like Banks, McArthur also had a family connection to NWC. His cousin is former Trapper Marshall McArthur, who just finished a solid career at NWC last season. The school’s location and academic programs made it a good fit for the freshman, who is redshirting this year.
“NWC was close to home and being just fresh off a mission in Houston, I wanted to take it easy and spend time with my family,” McArthur said. “Also, it was a good transition to college academically with my high school. I decided to continue basketball because I loved the sport and wanted to improve myself in it as well.”
As a redshirt, McArthur has been unable to get into a game, but Erickson likes what he sees in practice. The coach said this season is an excellent opportunity for McArthur to get back into playing shape.
“Being two years away from the game, you lose a little bit of the physicality of the game,” Erickson said. “On a mission, you’re out doing your job every day and you don’t have time for basketball. This is a great year for Mysen to get back into the gym and the weight room.”
Erickson added that McArthur brings a strong work ethic to the court, and is a team-first caliber of player.
“He’s been great,” Erickson said. “He puts in extra time, he’s a team and culture guy. He brings emotion.”
During practice, “he’s always into it, he’s clapping, keeping everybody up. He’s about the team,” Erickson said of McArthur. “And that’s exactly what we need him to do: take this year to get better, but also be there to support his teammates.”
As for McArthur, the experience has been everything he could have hoped for.
“It has been challenging but worth it,” he said. “Being a redshirt isn’t easy, but the benefits are immeasurable. I like that I have grown physically strong and have gained further knowledge about the game of basketball.”
McArthur has also enjoyed working with Erickson, and credits him with helping him regain his competitive edge.
“I love how he values his integrity and how he tries his best to help the team understand the process,” McArthur said. “I also like his respect for individuals — how he won’t allow the team to stay mediocre.”
In the end, basketball is a team sport, and McArthur said getting to know his teammates has been an added benefit.
“Definitely all the team building for me has been the most memorable,” McArthur said. “I am able to learn about how others have gotten to where they are and since I know them better, I am able to relate and care for them more. I enjoy that because that is what builds my brotherhood.”
The Trappers hold a 9-7 record at the break. When play resumes at home on Jan. 10 against Western Wyoming, it will be the first game of a busy January, with five of the next eight games played at Cabre Gym.