Payton Sandfort knows there are minutes to be found in Iowa’s lineup this season.
How many he gets, the 6-foot-7 freshman forward said this week, is all about his performance.
“Since the beginning, all of the coaches have really been open with me about … I think I’m going to have a chance to get some minutes,” Sandfort said. “But it really all depends on how hard I work, how well I perform in the summer and fall leading up to the season. It’s really up to me.”
Sandfort comes to Iowa as a prolific 3-point shooter — he shot 45.8 percent behind the arc last season at Waukee High School. Luka Garza and CJ Fredrick are gone, while Joe Wieskamp is testing the NBA Draft process for the second time in his career. That leaves a lot of offensive opportunities available.
But Sandfort wants to be known for more than being a scorer.
“I think I can definitely come in and contribute some shooting,” Sandfort said. “I’m going to work my butt off to become the best defender I can, and be able to compete defensively.”
Sandfort averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds last season for Waukee, which won the Iowa Class 4A state title in March. He is likely to play the ‘3’ spot, a position that Wieskamp has occupied through his career.
Sandfort hasn’t had much of a chance to speak with Wieskamp, but he did get some advice.
“He’s not currently on campus, so I haven’t talked to him a whole lot,” Sandfort said. “But during this past year, I’ve talked to him a little bit over text. He stressed the importance of being able to use your own pace, play at your own pace, to keep the Big Ten defenders off balance.”
Sandfort’s first week in Iowa City has been an education for what is ahead.
“I wouldn’t really say there has been anything I didn’t expect,” he said. “So far,I’ve really noticed how the speed and the conditioning and the pace are (different) here in Iowa City compared to high school. I’ve kind of expected it, and I’ve been preparing for it. The transition has been a little tough, but I’m starting to figure it out how to play at this Big Ten level.
“Everyone is just a whole lot stronger and athletic. Everything, you name it.”
Sandfort said he came to Iowa weighing 214 pounds, 10 pounds up from high school after he spent the spring in the weight room.
“I would say right now it’s probably my playmaking and my quick ability to get shots off,” Sandfort said of what he brings to the team. “I’d like to think that my basketball IQ can help out a lot of guys. Coming in, that can make an impact.”
Sandfort already is comfortable within the program.
“Ultimately, it came down to the feel of the program, and the family environment I was walking into,” Sandfort said of his choice to sign with the Hawkeyes. “Everyone’s hanging out with each other — the guys are super great. What I expected to walk into is, so far, it’s been a great, great family setting. I’m really happy I chose to play here.”