Trying to replicate the division title his team won last season, 2013 Orange (Ca.) Lutheran wing Payton Banks learned some valuable lessons throughout his senior season.
Banks averaged five assists to go along with his 18 points per game this past season.
Lutheran lost six seniors from its title-winning team, so Banks had to take over a new role in his final high school season.
“I was asked to be the senior leader, handle the ball when we needed some points - put the ball in the basket ultimately,” said Banks. “If they were to box-and-one me - which they basically did every game - I had to facilitate the ball and get everyone else involved so they could play at a high level also.”
Banks’ team finished 18-10 after playing a schedule which featured a number of nationally ranked teams. The three-star wing had to battle through various injuries, making the quest to repeat that much more difficult.
“I was unfortunately plagued with some injuries at the beginning of the season and was forced to play through them for the rest of the year,” said Banks. “I had a sprained wrist, concussion, a little bit of a back problem. I missed two and a half games. I was supposed to miss one but we ended up starting to lose so coach threw me at the very end to save the day but it didn’t pan out.”
Averaging 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game, Banks made 33 3-pointers throughout the year but made his biggest stride when he started trusting his teammates.
“Once I started to move the ball, the team began to improve and I learned how facilitating the ball really makes them better, therefore we started winning some harder games,” explained Banks. “That was actually a surprising thing to me, because it’s kind of cliche when all the great passers say ‘I try to get everyone else better,’ but I never really believed that before I saw it before my eyes this year.”
At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Banks has a college-ready body, letting him focus on improving other aspects of his game.
“I think one of my biggest things is mentally, I need to get into a spot where I know exactly what’s happening on the floor - focusing more,” Banks said. “I’m already physically ready for college, but mentally is where I need to keep working, that day-to-day grind. You can always get better at dribbling, shooting, defense - all those things can obviously improve. Playing in the Big Ten you need to be versatile.”
Even though he lives in a time zone three hours behind Pennsylvania’s, the No. 169 overall player in the 2013 class did his best to keep up with the Nittany Lions’ season, and saw some things he liked.
“A lot of players stepped up that I don’t even think they knew they could step up in that way,” said Banks. “I think it’s only going to make us better when Tim Frazier comes back next year. I also think it will be good for us freshmen to look up to a true leader and see what he’s been through, because he’s already been to where we’re trying to go.
“Players got better - Jermaine is playing out of his mind, Ross Travis, D.J. got that dunk earlier this year. Them beating Michigan, I think they’re an inspiration to be honest, with as many games as they lost they kept playing so hard.”
While assistant Eugene Burroughs was the point man in his recruitment, Banks has been in touch with the other members of the Penn State coaching staff as well.
“They’re saying we’re looking forward to having you, be ready when you come in, because you don’t get any breaks in the Big Ten,” recalled Banks. “You go from at Indiana to at Michigan then come home and play Michigan State, it’s ridiculous how skilled the league is. I’ve just got to be mentally and physically ready.”
Working on and off the court for the next few months, Banks is looking forward to where his future lies in State College.
“I’ve just got to finish off strong academically, and on the basketball side I’m going to be in the gym every day,” said Banks. “I’m so ready you don’t even know.”
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