WAUKEE, Ia. — The two best junior basketball prospects in Iowa could very well play on the same team. With a combined 10 Division I offers, Waukee wings Payton Sandfort and Tucker DeVries form one of the state's most formidable tandems.
They're both excellent shooters with frames that could project at multiple positions, and their recruitments are poised to generate plenty more steam.
"There’s a lot of people that know about them," Warriors head coach Justin Ohl said, "and I think this summer they’ll be on a lot of people’s radars."
Sandfort, a 6-foot-7 wing who shot 44.8% from long range as a sophomore, holds offers from Iowa, Minnesota, Utah, Loyola, Drake and Air Force.
DeVries, a 6-6 wing who shot 41.1% from beyond the arc last year, has offers from Creighton, Drake, South Dakota State and Air Force.
In Waukee's first two games, Sandfort scored 25 and 14 points, and DeVries had 15 and 32 points. Minnesota was on hand when Sandfort scored 25 against Des Moines East in the season-opener, and Utah was courtside for his second game. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was expected for Waukee's Friday game against Fort Dodge.
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott was courtside to watch DeVries score his 32 in the 68-61 win over Johnston.
Beyond his offers, Sandfort said he's fielding interest from Iowa State, Texas, Colorado and Stanford. DeVries said Iowa, Iowa State and Texas have also shown interest in him. Back in June, Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts called DeVries, as well.
DeVries said Drake and Creighton are the main two schools on him right now. His father, Darian DeVries, is the Bulldogs' head coach, and Tucker can be seen in the stands for essentially every Drake home game.
Tucker and his dad discuss his recruitment, and how Drake factors in, occasionally.
"At the dinner table, (conversations) happen. They come up. It’s not an every-day type of thing, but they do come up. He wants what's best for me," Tucker DeVries said. "So when it comes time to make a decision, he’ll look at both sides of it. He knows both sides of it. Wherever he thinks I have the best position to succeed, I feel like, he’ll push me toward. And wherever I want to go, I think he’ll be happy with."
DeVries has developed strong relationships with Bulldogs coaches and players since moving from Omaha to Des Moines when his dad got the Drake job two springs ago.
But he also has strong relationships with Creighton, built over a lifetime of his dad being an assistant coach there.
"I talk to them every once in a while, watch their games, text them after the games," DeVries said. "It’s just a bond that I developed being there around the team, just like I am here with Drake."
College coaches like that DeVries has a college-ready shot and a frame that should be pretty college-ready by the time he gets on campus. They like his basketball IQ and his ability to play multiple positions. He was almost strictly a catch-and-shoot guy last year, but he has honed his ball-handling skills to become one of Waukee's primary lead guards this winter.
"We talked to our team in the spring about improving, but I don't know if I’ve seen a player make a jump (like this) — who was already a pretty good player," Ohl said. "He’s made a jump, and that’s exciting. It’s a credit to him and how much times he puts in."
DeVries hasn't yet taken any official visits, but he may in the spring.
Sandfort, meanwhile, already took an official visit to Utah in late October. He has also unofficially visited Iowa, Minnesota, Drake and Loyola. He said those five schools are recruiting him the hardest right now.
College coaches also love his shooting ability; he picked up his first five offers (Iowa, Utah, Minnesota, Drake and Air Force) in the days following his performance at the regional high school showcase in Missouri, when talk behind the scenes was that he absolutely shot the lights out.
But Sandfort is much more than a shooter.
"People don't really take into account my passing skills; I like passing a lot," he said. "Coaches really see that. And they think, overall, I’m a pretty good defender, and I just keep getting better. And they think I have a lot of growth potential."
If Sandfort and DeVries continue to excel the way they have early in their junior seasons, they should have plenty of eyes on them when AAU basketball rolls around in the spring and summer.
In other words: Keep an eye on these two.
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
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