TCU Great Desmond Bane an NBA Shooting Star
The Grizzlies guard is giving back to his hometown and Memphis community.
Desmond Bane ’20 has spent most of his life defying expectations. Despite critical whispers about everything from his height to his wingspan, Bane has dazzled basketball fans while consistently improving his game.
In November 2020, six months after he graduated from TCU, Bane became the Horned Frogs’ first first-round NBA pick in a quarter century. A spot on a professional basketball roster was just the beginning for the guard, who was selected by the Boston Celtics, then traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I meet with each of our players after the season and give them three things to work on,” said Jamie Dixon ’87, head men’s basketball coach. “After Desmond finished his first year at Memphis, he called me up and said, ‘Coach, what are my three things I gotta work on?’
“He’s the rare player who keeps getting better.”
The future TCU star was born in Richmond, an east Indiana city with a population of about 35,000. His mother, Marissa Bane, was 18 when she had him.
Desmond Bane didn’t learn the identity of his father, who lives in Nigeria, until he was 13.
The Bane family doesn’t shy away from discussing the struggles Marissa faced, which included substance use and jail time. As a toddler, Desmond lived with his great-grandparents Bob and Fabbie Bane.
“They wanted to keep me safe,” he said.
Realizing early on their great- grandson was a natural athlete, the Banes made sure he participated in sports, including football and baseball.
“I’ve always loved basketball, where you have multiple guys on the floor working to accomplish the same thing,” said Bane, who has become one of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters.
As a fourth grader, at the insistence of his devout great-grandmother, Bane began attending a small Catholic school.
Billie Webster III, a graduate assistant with the TCU’s men’s basketball team, met his future best friend in the cafeteria on Bane’s first day at the parochial school.
“He feels like truly a brother,” said Webster, who was a year behind Bane in school. “And he’s almost like a father figure in a way to me, too.
“He’s such a strong-willed person and such a great leader,” Webster added. “He wants to walk away from a situation leaving a smile on everyone’s face. I always want to make him proud.”
Webster spent many holidays and summer days with the Bane family.
The two boys spent hours shooting hoops at a basketball goal installed by Tony Bane, Desmond’s great-uncle and a son of Bob and Fabbie.
“I made him wait overnight until the cement had dried before we played the first time,” Tony Bane said. “I said we should play H-O-R-S-E and had to explain what that was. Then the kid swished it on his first shot!
“I never did beat him at H-O-R-S-E.”
Tony Bane lobbied for his alma mater, Richmond High School, as Desmond’s destination. He said he thought the larger school would give his great-nephew more opportunity and exposure in the hoops-mad state.
Fabbie Bane wouldn’t hear of it. She sent her great-grandson to Seton Catholic High School, where he joined 20 other students in the Class of 2016.
Bane’s coach, who had instructed him in third grade at the Boys & Girls Club of Wayne County, was a new hire at Seton Catholic. Bane kept improving, spending hours in the gym after the final bell and earning A’s in class.
By his senior year, Bane was fielding college interest, just not from major conference programs.
Ryan Miller, then an assistant coach for TCU, spotted Bane at an amateur basketball event in Dallas. TCU had hired Dixon a few weeks earlier, poaching him from the University of Pittsburgh to return to his alma mater. After speaking with Bane, Dixon decided the young player would fit well with the culture he planned to create at TCU.
“Desmond was not recruited at our level, and on the one hand it was somewhat surprising that we would offer him a scholarship weeks before he graduated,” Dixon said. “But he believed he was a Power Five player, and he wanted the challenge.”
“I’ve always been the underdog,” Bane said. “I’ve always had to earn my spot.
“Going to TCU was huge for me,” he said. “I knew it was where I could continually work on something I loved and enjoyed.”
The Bane of the Big 12
At TCU, the 6-foot, 5-inch youth advocacy major thrived. Rigorous training and an emphasis on nutrition trimmed him down while increasing his muscle mass. The coaches and other players liked him.
“With Desmond,” Dixon said, “there were no bad days.”
Bane played in all 39 games his freshman season, starting 13 and averaging 7.1 points and 2.9 rebounds. He started for the Horned Frogs in the 2017 National Invitation Tournament, which TCU won by defeating Georgia Tech in the Madison Square Garden final.
Fabbie and Tony Bane were watching from the stands.
“There’s nothing like playing in front of your loved ones, especially on a stage like that,” Desmond Bane said, adding that the tournament “gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.”
At no point did he lack family support during his time at TCU, he said. Tony Bane, a union pipe fitter, attended 54 games, watching Desmond play in every Big 12 venue. Imo Ekiko, an uncle on his father’s side, traveled from Aurora, Colorado, to watch his nephew play.
“He’s definitely one of the most humble people you’ll meet,” Ekiko said. “He’s a free-spirited guy who doesn’t allow anything to get to him when he’s on the court.”
Bane upped his training his sophomore season in part, he said, because he realized his dreams of playing professionally were within reach.
Bane started 32 of the team’s 33 games, averaging 12.5 points and 4.1 rebounds.
“I really dedicated myself to the sport,” he said. “It was all about work habits, discipline, the grind.”
As a junior, he started all 37 games, averaging 15.2 points while logging 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He played 1,315 minutes — the most time- on-court for any player in TCU Men’s Basketball history.
His senior season Bane averaged more than 36 minutes a game, tops in the Big 12, while improving his statistics in every category.
“My senior year was huge for me and set me up for the league,” said Bane, who remains the third-highest scorer in TCU history with 1,784 points.
Later that year, Bane was the 30th player selected in the NBA draft, the last pick in the first round. Though drafted by the Boston Celtics, Bane was quickly traded to the Grizzlies.
“There were some nerves. There was no way of telling how the draft would go,” said Bane, who had to do Zoom interviews with NBA franchises because of pandemic restrictions.
Making an impact for Memphis from the start, Bane scored 6 points in his NBA debut Dec. 23, 2020, against the San Antonio Spurs.
Bane regrets that his great-grandfather, who died of Covid-19 in summer 2020, didn’t live to see the draft. His great- grandmother knew he’d achieved his NBA dream before she died of Covid in February 2021.
Bane said Memphis has proven a good fit for him. His fiancée, Tatum Talley ’20, joined him in the city. They live about 30 minutes from the FedExForum, home of the Grizzlies.
From the outset of his pro career, Bane has felt part of the wider Memphis community while also maintaining strong ties to his hometown.
“Whenever there’s an event like the Boys & Girls Club dinner or even when people from Richmond go see him play, he takes the time to shake everyone’s hand and thank them for coming. That’s just the kind of person he is.”
Tony Bane, Desmond Bane's uncle
In Tennessee and in partnership with Kroger, Bane gave out a thousand Thanksgiving food kits, which included Fabbie Bane’s apple pie recipe, to Memphis families. He took dozens of children affiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis holiday shopping in both 2021 and 2022 in addition to myriad other charitable endeavors, most of which focus on children.
He’s done everything from promoting literacy in schools and spearheading annual toy drives to providing backpacks stuffed with school supplies to about 150 Memphis-area children.
He returned to his hometown of Richmond, Indiana, in July 2022 to host his first basketball skills camp for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County, which played an outsized role in his own development.
While there, he helped raise more than $100,000 at a sold-out dinner at which he was honored with the Smart Futures award.
“He was so hands-on with our kids,” said Kate Glen, director of marketing and human resources for the Boys & Girls Club of Wayne County. “At the dinner, he was very gracious in answering audience questions and questions from the kids, who just love him.”
“Whenever there’s an event like the Boys & Girls Club dinner or even when people from Richmond go see him play, he takes the time to shake everyone’s hand and thank them for coming,” Tony Bane said. “That’s just the kind of person he is.”
A few days after that dinner, Desmond Bane hosted Night in the Park in Richmond, where more than 3,500 residents turned out for food, fun, games, haircuts and a basketball tournament.
July 2022 was a big month for Bane and Talley, who welcomed their first child, a son named Armani.
“I always knew he’d be a great father,” said Webster, who still gets together with Bane and a handful of other friends who sat together every day at lunch during high school.
Back in Memphis for his second season, Bane proved even more integral to his team, thriving under the leadership of coach Taylor Jenkins.
The Grizzlies made it to the playoffs in both 2021 and 2022. Bane was Memphis’ third-leading scorer (19.0 points per game) this season despite missing 17 games with a sprained right big toe. The Grizzlies won the Southwest Division with a 51-31 record and were No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
“It’s not really normal to continue to improve your play in the NBA each year,” Dixon said. “But Desmond has.”
Bane said he intends to help lead the Grizzlies to an NBA championship during his career. He knows what a win would mean for his family, friends and the ardent Memphis fans.
“A lot of us on this team have been underestimated and overlooked throughout our careers,” he said. “That chip on your shoulder pushes you to keep grinding.”
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