Recently, the Iowa high school sports world rejoiced as the summer seasons were greenlighted, giving Iowans their first look at sports since the boys state basketball finale back in mid-March. That hasn’t been all the activity surrounding the high school sports world, in fact, there has been activity on the basketball hardwood as well.
The last month or so has is generally a prime time for high school junior and senior basketball stars looking to start the process towards the collegiate level. One such star looking to make the collegiate jump after high school is Waukee’s very own Payton Sandfort. Following two strong seasons on the varsity lineup, Sandfort’s stock in the eyes of multiple collegiate coaches has risen. Normally, this would be a time dominated by official college visits and AAU summer tournaments but as the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, there is a new normal afoot. After impacting the Class 4A state championship game, the coronavirus has also changed the entire landscape of college basketball recruiting and for Sandfort, his first big look at the recruiting process. Now, as is the case with most things, the recruiting process has gone indoors with an avenue never before used.
“The whole process has been a lot more virtual,” said Sandfort. “It’s a lot more text and phone calls and virtual visits with video tours of the campus and so forth.”
Normally recruits are able to go on official and unofficial visits touring the facility. That would include a lot of travel for Sandfort especially since he’s drawn interest from up to nine division one universities. The range of interest for Sandfort and his basketball skills has been fairly wide, ranging from schools such as Stanford, Oklahoma, Colorado, and others. Overall, the Waukee junior has official offers from six schools including locally with the University of Iowa and Drake University. Sandfort also has offers from Air Force, Loyola University in Chicago, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Utah. Sandfort has taken several official collegiate visits as of late, more recently with the University of Utah.
While Sandfort has been diligent focusing on what the right path for him maybe, the whole recruiting process hasn’t been without its perks.
“It’s been really really cool to get the interest from teams,” began Sandfort. “I’ve grown up a college basketball fanatic so getting to meet some of the people I’ve been watching for years is very cool. A lot of these individuals have been idols to me and now getting to meet, talk to, and wanting me to come to play for them is extremely cool.”
Staying ready has been quite a challenge for athletes of all sports but for those like Sandfort knocking on the collegiate doorstep, it’s been crucial to staying in shape and ready to impress. For Sandfort himself though, while some have had trouble getting to a basketball hoop, all he’s had to do is look in his own backyard.
“We have a half-court in our basement which this has been the best time ever for that to be in use,” said Sandfort. “My dad and grandpa have been working me and my brother out. I’ve also just been talking to people and getting online drills.”
Even though it hasn’t been the process Sandfort and his family were hoping for, it still was a process that they’ve all shared together. That has been a strong positive for Sandfort.
“It’s been very nice to go through all of this with my dad, grandpa, and my brother,” said Sandfort. “My grandpa still has records here at Waukee and he’s gone through the recruiting process so it’s nice to go through that with him. It’s been great to go through this with my grandpa and dad as they have taught me how to play the game. It will also be a benefit for my brother (Pryce) who’s a good player to learn how to go through this process.”
Sandfort will now tackle a shortened AAU season before diving into the 2020-21 season at Waukee High School. He will look to continue off of what was undoubtedly his best season in 2019-20 where he was second in Class 4A with 515 total points scored. That’s not to mention a class second-best mark of 225 rebounds. He will one part of an overall experienced roster for Waukee next season where they will return over 90 percent of their scoring offense.