The plan was hatched in late 2005. Two girls, newly acquainted and fresh out of high school, would assist each other quite literally in achieving their goals. Three-and-a-half years and 100 basketball games later, the plan is now complete. And unlike the blueprints for Castleton’s campus renovations, this one never changed. Mary Nienow and Jessica Banks, both senior guards for the Spartan women’s basketball team, have become the 10th and 11th players in CSC women’s basketball history to net 1,000 points. Both girls came to CSC in the fall of 2005, Nienow from Middlebury and Banks from Milford, Conn.
The two hoopsters and roommates quickly became best friends off the court. This is when the talks began.
“We would always throw it out there as freshmen how cool it would be if we could assist each other on our 1,000 point baskets. We always wanted it to happen that way,” Banks said.
The chemistry between these two players is undeniable. Banks runs the point guard position, pushing the ball up the court while looking for an open teammate. In Castleton’s half-court offense, it is often Nienow, weaving in and out of screens, that is the recipient. It is a natural feeling one-two punch.
“We’ve been playing together for four seasons now,” said Banks. “We trust each other on the court and our games just agree with each other.”
On Jan. 27, Green Mountain College played host to Part I of the aging plan.
Early in the second half, with Castleton leading by six points, Banks spotted Nienow open just beyond the 3-point arc. Nienow canned the shot, and both girls knew immediately what had just happened – 1,000 points for Nienow off an assist from Banks.
Neither the assist nor the three-pointer should come as a surprise. Banks has led the NAC the last three seasons in assist-to-turnover ratio while Nienow currently ranks second in CSC history for three-point field goals made.
Head coach Tim Barrett sees Nienow’s outside shooting as her greatest, but not only, ability.
“Over the years I’ve seen Mary mature and become able to score in other ways,” said Barrett. “But her shot is the strength of her game.”
Banks has also proven that, along with dishing out assists, she can rack up the points. Two games later, as Castleton hosted Maine-Farmington, Banks joined Nienow in the small 1,000 point scorer club. In an episode of reversed roles, Banks received a pass from Nienow and dropped a three-pointer.
Part II complete. Milestones achieved.
Barrett insists that, although this is a remarkable achievement for both girls, it’s not just a personal milestone.
“This is a team milestone in a lot of ways. If you’re not surrounded by a good core of players, this probably can’t happen. And to have two girls score 1,000 on the same team says a lot about their teammates,” he said.
With five regular season games remaining, Part III of the plan may lie just around the corner.
“Now we want to win the NAC tournament and get an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament,” Banks said.
If this should happen, it will be the first trip to the NCAA tournament for any Spartans women’s basketball team, and a fitting end to two spectacular careers.