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Original Issue

A Prom to Remember

Attended By Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal and Janese Banks, the
senior prom at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis--but just as
friends. At a press conference for O'Neal's Super Shootout
charity basketball game on April 10, Banks, the Marion County
athlete of the year and a participant in the game, jokingly
inquired of O'Neal, "Why don't you take me to the prom?" O'Neal,
who is 25 and engaged, played along, telling Banks, 18, he'd take
her if she continued to work hard in the classroom. She did, so
after getting permission from his fiancee, Lamesha Roper, O'Neal
escorted Banks to the April 17 dance at the Convention Center in
downtown Indianapolis--just hours after leading Indiana with 24
points and 11 rebounds in a 104-88 playoff win over the Celtics.
"When you get kids that have a plan in life and are going to do
whatever it takes to excel in life, I have no problem going to a
high school prom," O'Neal said.

O'Neal skipped his own senior prom at Eau Claire High in
Columbia, S.C., eight years ago, and his inexperience showed when
he tried to pin a corsage on Banks. "I didn't know how to do it,"
O'Neal said. "My mom had to help him," says Banks. Once the
flower was in place, the couple rode in O'Neal's Bentley--with a
police escort--to the prom, where, alas, they didn't dance. ("His
knee was hurting him," says Banks, who will play basketball at
Wisconsin next year.) O'Neal ducked out after 90 minutes so Banks
could hang out with her friends, but not before offering her a
limousine ride home. Moves like that earned O'Neal high marks
from the toughest audience of all. "He was classy," says James
Banks, Janese's father. "He was a very respectful young man, and
I think he really treated my daughter well. A gentleman all the
way." --Adam Duerson

COLOR PHOTO: PRESTIGE PHOTOGRAPHS BY LIFETOUCH (O'NEAL PROM) NO TANGO IN PARIS After torching the Celtics, O'Neal (with Banks)rested his legs at the big dance.