Unusual times call for unusual measures. Payton Sandfort is finding that out on the recruiting trail.
The Waukee (IA) High senior is dealing with an extended dead period like other prospects since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March. There’s no in-person contact with college coaches. That restriction runs at least through September.
Like dealing with a double-team, Sandfort is adjusting to what’s being thrown at him. He’s planning on visiting Iowa on Friday in hopes of getting a better feel for the town and campus after stops in October and February.
“I’m just going to tour on my own because I haven’t been on campus all that much. I can’t talk to any of the coaches there. Maybe I’ll see a player or two, but that’s about it,” Sandfort told HN.
The Hawkeyes are working hard for his commitment. He’s conducting virtual meetings with the coaches and players there. He talks with head coach Fran McCaffery at least once a week as well as separate correspondence with assistants Billy Taylor and Sherman Dillard.
Sandfort feels wanted.
“It’s awesome,” he said.
Waukee finished second in the state last winter after back-to-back third-place finishes in Sandfort’s first two years. The 6-foot-7, 210-pounder earned all-tournament honors. He averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 blocks while shooing 53.7 percent from the floor, 45.3 on threes and 87.2 from the foul line in 2019-20.
Sandfort performed with Kingdom Hoops this summer during a condensed AAU season. College coaches and fans weren’t allowed in the gyms. Games were streamed online.
“I was really prepared for an AAU season where I thought I could maybe blow up and get a bunch more offers but it obviously didn’t work out like that. The game looks a lot slower on TV. So a lot of coaches won’t really offer just because of that,” he said.
“From my perspective, I think I was just able to showcase my versatility. I was able to play a lot of point guard and guard big guys and guards, just really show my complete game.”
Sandfort impressed Stanford enough that the Cardinal offered a scholarship in late July. He added it to opportunities from Iowa, Drake, Minnesota, Utah, Air Force and Loyola of Chicago.
“It’s a really rewarding offer for how hard I’ve worked throughout my entire life so far both on the court but in academics and volunteering as well because all of it’s required to get in there,” he said.
“I don’t know know a whole lot about the program. I have been on a couple zooms with them recently. It’d be nice to get out there but I don’t think that’ll be possible anytime soon.”
Six months ago he never would have considered committing somewhere he hadn’t visited but his mindset has changed.
“Now I might make adjustments just because that’s the world we live in,” Sandfort said.
His original plan was to visit campuses this fall and then commit before his season in November.
“I still think I’m going to commit sometime before the season just to get it out of the way and so I can focus on winning a state championship, but I don’t know if visits are going to be possible now,” he said.
Sandfort and his family are researching colleges online. They’re coming up with lists of pros and cons.
They have a good idea of what they’d be getting from the Hawkeye experience.
“They’re really honest, which I really appreciate. They’re not going to guarantee an incoming freshman a starting spot, which I think is really important. They stressed how much they really like me and told me I’m their guy,” Sandfort.
“I can come in and help out right away if I earn it. The more I’ve gotten to know them, the more they’ve opened up, and that’s been really great.”
Iowa’s up-tempo style meshes with Sandfort’s skillset.
“It’s as close to the perfect fit as it can get. A lot of guys that I think have games really similar to my game have gone to a program like (Jarrod) Uthoff and (Joe) Wieskamp. They’ve stressed that guys like me come into the program and are really successful,” he said.
Don’t underestimate Drake’s chances here. Bulldog coach Darian DeVries’ son, Tucker DeVries, is Sandfort’s teammate.
“It’s a little different than the usual recruiting scenario just because me and Tucker are really good friends and we live about five minutes away from each other. I’m at his house all the time and his dad’s there,” Sandfort said.
“When I’m there, we don’t really talk recruiting a whole lot. It’s just a normal relationship, which I really appreciate him for that. (Drake is) close to home and I think it’s a really great place for me as well.”
You can listen to our full interview in the podcast below or wherever you get your podcasts:
Here’s a look at Sandfort’s junior highlights: