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In-State Target Payton Sandfort High on Hawkeyes

February 18, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

Last June, after seeing Payton Sandfort perform, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery offered the Waukee wing player a scholarship. Since then, they’ve continued building a relationship with McCaffery attending his games and Sandfort visiting the Iowa campus.

The Class of 2021 prospect caught a Hawkeye game against Illinois earlier this month. During the stop, Sandfort (6-7, 200) met with McCaffery in his office. The coach shared his vision for the recruiting target.

“He was just telling me that I fit into the system well, maybe take on a role like (Joe) Wieskamp has now, hitting shots and coming off different curls and actions like that, and defending on the other end. He sees me similar to that,” Sandfort told HN.

Wieskamp, a sophomore averaging 14.9 points and 6.2 rebounds, stresses a defense with his ability to hit shots from deep and also attack the rim. He often guards the other team’s dangerous scorers.

“I think we have a lot of similar abilities,” Sandfort said of filling the Wieskamp role. “With the way that I play, I can see myself coming off those curls because that’s what I do now; coming off screens, hitting open shots, getting to the rim.”

Sandfort is averaging 20.2 points for a 17-2 Waukee squad ranked sixth in Class 4A. He’s shooting 55.9 percent from the floor, including 47.0 on three-pointers, leads his team in rebounding (8.9 RPG) and ranks second in assists (4.2 APG). He’s knocking down 85.9 percent of his foul shots.

“In terms of playing style, I fit in really well (at Iowa). That’s what we try to do at Waukee, just kind of play fast, get down and defend; playing fast but not out of control,” Sandfort said.

Weiskamp spoke with Sandfort during his visit this month. Sandfort felt like he connected with the people in the program and enjoyed the atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a sellout against rival Illini.

“It was incredible. Every big shot the crowd just erupted and that was really cool to be a part of,” he said. “From a basketball standpoint, watching how smart all of the guys are out there, constantly making the right plays and being tough and physical, really stood out.”

Sandfort has competed against Iowa freshman Patrick McCaffery, and they connected on his visit. Sandfort felt comfortable within the Hawkeye basketball culture.

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“I know a lot of the Iowa guys and we share some of the same experiences. I think I fit in really well with them,” Sandort said.

Fran McCaffery is building a strong relationship with Sandfort.

“I really like him. He’s a really great guy, honest guy. He’s never going to tell you something you just want to hear just to get you to come to his school. He’s always going to tell it how it is, and I really appreciate that,” Sandfort said.

He did not grow up rooting for any particular college basketball program. He cheered on whichever of the in-state schools were experiencing success at the time.

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Drake has offered him a scholarship. Minnesota, Utah, Air Force and Loyola also have stepped forward with opportunities.

He’s taking his time with the recruiting process.

“Everyone who knows our family knows we’re really slow with all our decisions. We thoroughly analyze everything so we don’t have to make the decision again,” Sandfort said.

“Right now, I’m just building good relationships with all these coaches. I guess my end-goal would be deciding before next high school season.”

The Stanford coaches have reached out to him. They’re trying to bring him out to visit the campus during the spring.

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“There’s not much more going on beyond that. Right now, I’m just focused on winning a state title,” he said. “I’m guessing I’ll be up to Iowa again before the season is over for a game.”

The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 20 nationally this week. They feature a national player of the year candidate in junior center Luka Garza. The success is impressing Sandfort.

“They’re having a great year. Injuries could have held them back, but the coaching staff is doing a great job rallying the guys and getting big wins throughout the year. It’s been fun to watch,” he said.

Sandfort plans on majoring in Communications in hopes of someday analyzing college basketball on television. He’s looking for a minor in Business.

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