Waukee wing Payton Sandfort, a 6-foot-7 athlete who can shoot 45% from long range, has an eclectic mix of schools atop his current recruiting radar.
There's Iowa, the Big Ten school that was his first offer nearly a year ago.
There's Drake, a mid-major program with hometown ties and the appeal of potentially playing with a best friend.
And there's Utah, a school more than 1,000 miles away that's recruited Sandfort longer than anyone, he says.
Minnesota has offered. And schools such as Stanford and Colorado remain involved. But with no AAU basketball so far this spring, Sandfort hasn't had a chance to earn more offers with performances during live events. He hopes he'll get that chance after the recruiting dead period ends Aug. 1, but that's no guarantee.
So, for now, the senior-to-be is making phone calls, chatting with coaches on Zoom and sifting through his options during a global pandemic.
"A lot of schools now are telling me that it might be hard to see me," he told the Register, "so they’re just going to have to rely on a lot of film."
Sandfort still hopes to make a decision before his senior season of basketball begins. He also wants to take as many official visits before that happens; he already took an official visit to Utah last October.
In recent weeks, he's had multiple Zoom calls and virtual visits with Iowa and Utah, as well as one with Drake.
"They see me fitting into the system really well with the run-and-gun, sit and defend, stuff like that," Sandfort said of Iowa. "And a lot of my family are huge Hawkeye fans, so they’re doing more pushing than the coaching staff.
"(Iowa sees me playing) anywhere from 1-4, depending on each situation. Whatever I’m needed for. … Almost like a Jarrod Uthoff, is what they said."
Drake's coach is Darian DeVries, the father of Tucker DeVries, Sandfort's Waukee teammate. The Register ranks DeVries and Sandfort the top two in-state 2021 prospects, respectively, and the Bulldogs are recruiting both hard — selling the idea that they could come in and do serious damage together in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"Being so close to home, I think they think that helps a lot. Being able to see family all the time," Sandfort said. "Being able to come in and make an immediate impact. I already know a lot of the guys, just from them coming to our games and stuff. Big-time team chemistry.
"Obviously, you’re still going to have to earn it. Nothing is promised or given. But, since me and (Tucker) already play together, they think if we’re both there together, we could go pretty far."
Despite being so far from home, Utah has been at or near the top of Sandfort's list for nearly a year now.
"They know me really well. I’ve been talking to them longer than probably any of the other schools," he said. "I really like those coaches. I know they really like me. They had a really good recruiting class, so they’re trying to sell winning. They have a really young team right now and a promising future. And then I’d just fit in. Hit a bunch of shots, bring it up on rebounds and open up a lot of space for those guys driving."
The NCAA recently extended the dead recruiting period to July 31, meaning coaches still can't evaluate prospects in person and there can be no in-person contact. In response, the Nike EYBL canceled its summer slate of events.
Sandfort is not in a rush to make a decision. He plays for Des Moines-based Kingdom Hoops, which plays on the independent Recruit Look circuit. If that circuit runs any events in August, when it's thought the NCAA may add a few live periods, Sandfort could turn his Colorado and Stanford interest into offers.
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
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