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Hard Work Pays Off In Payton Banks’ Impressive Sophomore Season

For a season with so many ups and downs, it’s important to focus on the positives that result from the 2015-16 men’s basketball season. One of those positives is the steady improvement of sophomore forward Payton Banks and the impact he’s had on the Nittany Lions this season.

In just one season, Banks has developed into the all-around player Pat Chambers saw in him three years prior. After playing 29 games without a start in his first season last year, Banks hasn’t been out of the starting lineup at all in the 2015-16 campaign. In 21 games so far this year, Payton Banks is progressing at a solid pace compared to his freshman year. Banks is proving to be a solid player and that this is where he belongs, even if it took a long road, literally and figuratively, to arrive.

Enrolling at Penn State in 2013 meant that Banks would have to travel to an unfamiliar destination. For Banks, Happy Valley was a place more than 2,500 miles from his home in Orange, California. Penn State seemed to be the best choice for Banks at the time, even if it was the only school east of Texas to provide him with the opportunity to play the game he loves.

Banks would have to exchange the warm, sunny climate of California for the chance to start in a Power Five conference. In his first year with the Nittany Lions, Banks was given a redshirt and was ineligible to play in the 2013-2014 season. Banks used that season to work on his game and learn the ways of Coach Pat Chambers’ system.

In the 2014-2015 season, Payton Banks would give Penn State a slight hint of what he could bring to the hardwood. Throughout his redshirt freshman year, Banks showed that he could do a variety of things. He could shoot the ball, he had a tendency to shoot a lot of three pointers, and he could rebound well. While Banks had the skills to be somewhat productive on offense, his defense was the weak point of his game. In the offseason, Banks went to work to improve his defense.

“The change in Payton [Banks] is like night and day,” senior forward Brandon Taylor said. “When he came in, he was this cool, swaggy kid from California shooting threes, fadeaways, stepbacks. Now he still shoots some fadeaways and stepbacks, but he plays hard on defense. That’s probably the best thing that’s happened for him is his defense.”

Penn State lost some production in the offseason with the transfer of guard Geno Thorpe, so the Nittany Lions needed a new man to step up for some additional production. So far, Payton Banks has fit that role. Banks is averaging 10.9 points per game while shooting just over 40 percent. Banks is also second on the team in rebounds and is third on the team with 15 steals.

Banks’ offense has also become more balanced in the past year. Chambers recruited Banks originally for his three-point shooting ability. In his redshirt season last year, Banks was shooting just 28 percent from three-point range and the majority of his shots — 39 out of 59 total shots — were three-pointers.

He seems to have calmed down from behind the arc this season as he is more balanced with his shot selection. Banks’ repertoire this season consists of 36 percent three-pointers, and as a result his shooting percentage has raised significantly from last year.

“BT knows how much time we’re in the gym, and just to see that pay off is just mind blowing,” Banks said. “Coach always says you have to earn the right to make shots, and I kind of figured it out, it kind of clicked this year. If I get in the gym, then I’m going to trust that I’m going to make shots.”

The way that Banks is playing this year is just a testament to how hard he worked this offseason. By working on his driving, defense, and consistency, Payton Banks is becoming a more complete player for Penn State and is proving to be a potential building block for the future.

About the Author

Jacob Abrams

Jacob Abrams is a sophomore from Oxford, PA, majoring in Management in the Smeal College of Business. Jacob is the President/GM of The LION 90.7 FM along with being a play-by-play commentator and sports talk show host. He is a sports fanatic, and strongly supports the Philadelphia Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, and the New Orleans Saints. He is a first-generation Penn Stater, and in his free time he likes to play sports and sing. You can follow him on Twitter @jake_abrams and contact him at [email protected]

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