On April 14, 2016, Jenepher Banker was introduced as the next head coach of the Daemen women's basketball program. The announcement was made at a press conference held in Rosary Hall as Banker becomes just the fourth head coach in the modern era of the program which began in 1986.
"Throughout the search process, it became clear that coach Banker's unique and wide-ranging skill set, having coached in a number of different NCAA divisions, and experiencing sustained success at the high school level, made her the ideal candidate to lead the next chapter of our women's basketball program," said Bridget Niland, director of athletics. "The student-athlete experience is always at the forefront of everything we do in Daemen Athletics, and Jen shares that passion to see her student-athletes succeed on the court, in the classroom and in life."
Banker comes to Daemen with nearly 30 years of coaching experience at various levels, ranging from Division I to high school. Her first collegiate experience came as an assistant coach at Iowa State University, then of the Big Eight Conference, from 1986-88, and later as an assistant at Canisius College from 1993-95.
Between assistant coaching stops, Banker served as the head coach at Penn State-Behrend in Erie, Pa. While there, she led the Lions' NCAA Division III program to a 67-61 overall record, including a 41-12 mark in her final two seasons. Her 1991-92 team went 23-4, winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Region championship. That season, her team garnered Penn State-Behrend's first-ever national ranking in any sport. She still ranks second all-time in coaching victories, and was inducted into Penn State-Behrend's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
Banker ultimately settled at the high school level, coaching the varsity team at Grand Island High School from 1998-2013, building the Lady Vikings into a regional contender with seven Section VI championships, four appearances in the Far West Regional, and one appearance at the New York State final four. During her tenure, Banker's teams were recognized with the New York State Scholar-Athlete Team Award for 15 straight seasons, and she developed 10 players that went on to play college basketball, as well as four of the five 1,000-point scorers in school history.
In addition, Banker has also coached twice in the Empire State Games, formerly a set of annual Olympic-style competitions for amateur athletes from the state of New York.
"We are thrilled to have a coach of Jenepher's experience to lead our women's basketball program, and are confident she will take the team to a new level of athletic competition in Division II," said Daemen President Gary A. Olson. "She is a great addition to Daemen Athletics, and we look forward to an exciting season ahead for our women's basketball team."
"I would like to thank President Gary Olson and Bridget Niland for this incredible opportunity," said Banker. "I'm humbled, yet very excited and I can't tell you how eager I am to join the Daemen Athletics family. Bridget's leadership and vision make Daemen Athletics a special place to be at a very special time. I'm excited to work with the student-athletes already at Daemen as well as the ones who will be joining the program. I believe Daemen is truly a diamond in the rough."
Banker, who played collegiately and was an Academic All-American and 1,000-point scorer at Springfield College (Mass.), graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education. She would later add a Master of Science Degree in Athletic Administration from Iowa State in 1988. After serving as a physical education instructor at Iowa State, Penn State-Behrend and Canisius, she has, since 1998, been a physical education teacher in the Grand Island School District where she has also served as the Director of Community Education.
She inherits a team that went 9-17 overall in the 2015-16 season, including a 7-13 mark in East Coast Conference play which placed them eighth in the league standings. The team is set to return six players who averaged double-figure minutes last season, including leading scorer and first-team All-ECC pick Sarah Saba (Lancaster, N.Y./Lancaster), a 6-foot guard who averaged 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Banker also announced today that current assistant coaches Patrick Burke and Alanna Laguerre would remain on staff moving forward.