Payton Banks Thrives In Newly Appointed Starting Role

When Pat Chambers was asked before the season who in his deep set of guards would become the go-to scorer following the departure of D.J. Newbill, Payton Banks wasn’t at the top of his list.

After stating Shep Garner had the potential of “being that go-to guy or that scorer for us in the back court,” he simply listed Banks, who averaged 8.7 minutes a game last year, as an option to “give significant minutes.”

But Banks, a 6-foot-6 sophomore guard-forward, is doing more than just logging playing time. He’s third on the team through Penn State’s first five games in both points per game (10.6, behind Brandon Taylor and Garner), and rebounds (4.8, behind Taylor and Julian Moore). He logged a career-high 12 points in the season opener against VMI, then matched that against Duquesne. He’s scored in double-figures in every game save for Saturday’s 62-58 win over Bucknell, a game that saw a young Penn State team overcome a six-point deficit with less than five minutes to play.

Tied at 58 with less than a minute to play, Banks stole the ball from a Bison offender, then — after a missed layup and offensive rebound — drilled the go-ahead three-pointer to give the Lions a lead it would not again relinquish. Fueled by Banks’ play on both sides of the court, Penn State closed the game on a 13-1 run.

“It’s a huge confidence booster, and it also shows that the team has confidence in me,” Banks said after the game about his game-winner. “And also the coaching staff, for them to draw up a play where I have an open opportunity in the corner.”

“It’s very big trust. I’ve been getting shots up, and I felt like I was prepared to make that shot.”

Banks didn’t play as a true freshman, and only saw limited minutes in 29 appearances as a redshirt freshman last year. He averaged a meager 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds per outing, but flashes of his potential were evident. A small forward that can double as a guard with competent three-point capabilities, Banks is in ways reminiscent of Chris Babb’s smooth game. Babb, who finished his college career transferring to Iowa State and who has navigated a stint with the Boston Celtics and the D-League, showed similar skills and size during his brief Penn State career.

But still, when Chambers slotted Banks in the starting lineup to begin the season over redshirt freshman Isaiah Washington, streaky big man Donovon Jack, and quick-footed Devin Foster, it was a bit of a surprise.

“Payton has made a tremendous step up from last year,” Garner said. “He’s like…way better. And we need him. He’s like a big part of our team, he’s really a big part of our team.”

“He can do a little bit of everything. He can shoot, drive, big — 6-foot-6, he can rebound, he can defend really well,” Garner continued. “He’s a big part of our team. We love Payton.”

After his first career start, in which he tallied 12 points and six rebounds, Chambers gave him even bigger praise: “He’s our best defender. He’s in year three, he knows exactly what we’re doing, where to be.”

Penn State faces Boston College Wednesday night in the Big Ten ACC Challenge.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA


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