Rookie credits faith, family,
school for making it to the NBA

Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies drives to the basket against the Indiana Pacers' Malcolm Brogdon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Feb. 2, 2021. Bane is a 2016 graduate of Seton Catholic High School in Richmond, Ind., in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (CNS photo/Matt Kryger, Indiana Pacers Sports & Entertainment via The Criterion)

INDIANAPOLIS — On the day his dream came true, Desmond Bane stood in front of the modest home where he grew up, wanting to pay tribute to all the people who supported him along the way.

Flashing a huge smile, the 22-year-old Bane created a video that focused on his family, his friends and all his supporters in his hometown of Richmond, Indiana.

In that emotional moment, Bane thought of his great-grandparents — how he had lived with them since he was 2, how they loved him, and how they guided him to live a life rooted in faith, hard work and humility.

In the background, the video also captured a glimpse of the driveway where he had been playing basketball since he was 3, where he and his friends played countless games, and where he dreamed of playing in the NBA.

Now that dream was within hours of becoming a reality on Nov. 18, 2020 — the day of the NBA draft. Looking into the camera, Bane was trying to describe how he was feeling, and what it would mean for him — one of the 20 graduates of the 2016 class of Seton Catholic High School in Richmond — to be drafted.

“You can’t really put it into words,” Bane said into the camera. “It’s starting to hit now. I mean, looking here at the home I grew up in, being in the city I grew up in, my family here, close friends here. It’s indescribable, it’s indescribable.”

Later that night, in that same house, Bane sat next to his great-grandmother, Fabbie, in a room filled with family and friends, watching the televised broadcast of the NBA draft.

And when the NBA commissioner announced that Bane was the last pick of the first round, the room erupted in cheers, smiles and pure joy as Bane hugged his great-grandmother.

The only regret of the day was that his great-grandfather, Bob, wasn’t physically part of the celebration. He died July 20 after contracting COVID-19.

Still, Bob’s photo was prominently displayed on a table in front of where Bane sat. And he had the feeling that his great-grandfather — who was one of his coaches in his youth — was with him, celebrating the dream that came true.

Fast-forward to Jan. 31, 2021 — two days before Bane returned home to Indiana as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, to play for the first time against the team he rooted for as a child and a youth, the Indiana Pacers.

Less than two months into the season, Bane was already being hailed by NBA analysts as “among the surprises of the 2020 rookie class.”

In a game against the San Antonio Spurs Jan. 30, he helped the Grizzlies to a 129-112 win, hitting six of eight shots, including all 3 three-pointers that he took. Yet the next day in a phone interview with The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, Bane approached his strong start to the season with humility.

“If I said it was easy, I’d be lying to you,” he said. “It’s been an extreme learning curve. We’ve had some injuries and some other things come up, and I’ve had the opportunity. I’ve tried to make the most of it.”

That approach defines Bane. He played at one of the smallest high schools in Indiana and became an Indiana All-Star.

He received only one scholarship offer to continue playing at a major college — Texas Christian University — and he was named to the Big 12’s all-conference first team in two seasons.

And now he’s in the NBA, making a significant contribution as a rookie.

He has made “the most of it” at every turn, yet he deflects the credit back to his great-grandparents.

“My great-grandparents did a great job of instilling values in me,” said Bane, who makes a point of calling his great-grandmother at least once a day and usually twice.

“It’s indescribable the things I learned from them. There’s not a lot of stuff they haven’t seen. The experiences they’ve seen helped me think about life and what you want to get out of it.”

For Bane, that goal includes making the most of his Catholic faith.

“It serves as my backbone when things are going great and not going great,” he said. “You always have it to lean on. I wouldn’t be where I am without it.”

As the principal of Seton Catholic High School, John Markward has seen how Bane lives his faith.

“I am truly amazed by Desmond’s faith and passion. When he is in town, you will always see him at church,” said Markward, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond.

“He is not afraid to post something about God on social media, and he praises God for his blessings. In today’s society, there are many people that would shy away from this for fear of being viewed differently.”

On the day of the NBA draft, Bane returned to the Seton Catholic gym to talk to the current students about his journey — his way of giving back for what he calls “the close-knit connection” he had with students and staff during his four years there.

“I told them I was sitting in those same seats as them not long ago,” Bane said about the basic theme of his talk. “I told them, ‘Whatever dream you have, do it, and you’ll live a happy life.'”

Living your dream is just part of his approach to life. Living your life with character is equally important to him. A pre-draft analysis of him noted, “Bane is regularly praised for his character and approach to the game.”

“Character is huge, whether you play basketball or not,” Bane said. “The person you are will last longer than playing basketball. My great-grandmother instilled that in me at an early age. Whether it’s the janitor or the CEO, you treat them all with respect.”

Markward said Bane “has remained a humble person throughout his journey. His approach to life, how he treats others and his faith are admirable.”

Josh Jurgens, the head coach of Seton Catholic High School’s boys’ basketball team, said Banes is “always that person who wants to make everyone around him better.”

“He was the first player in the gym and the last one to leave,” he told The Criterion. “When you have that out of your best player, it’s easy to hold everyone else accountable.”

Jurgens noted his 9-year-old son, Tripp, is the proud owner of a Desmond Bane Memphis Grizzlies’ jersey. As a father, Jurgens views Bane as a worthy hero for his son.

“He’s an old soul raised by his great-grandparents,” Jurgens said. “They raised him right, for sure. He listened to what they taught him about becoming a better person, staying humble, working hard and being kind to people. He took all that to heart. He gives back. He doesn’t forget people or where he came from.”

Bane says he never could.

“The people who I have in my career and my life are special people. Those are the people I’ve known my whole life,” he said.

“There’s no reason to act differently because of the position I’m in now. I’m extremely grateful for the position I’m in, and I’m extremely grateful to have those people around me. They’ve been following me my whole life and make me feel supported.”

Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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