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Summer a season of growth for Hawkeyes' Sandfort

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CORRECTION B10 Northwestern Iowa Basketball

Iowa guard Payton Sandfort shoots over Northwestern forward Pete Nance during the first half of the Hawkeyes' win over the Wildcats at the Big Ten tourney. Sandfort finished with 13 points and hit three 3-point baskets in the win.

IOWA CITY — In more ways than he anticipated, summer has turned into a season of growth for Iowa basketball player Payton Sandfort.

Following a productive freshman season with the Hawkeyes, Sandfort expects to build on the contributions he made while averaging 10-and-a-half minutes per game last season.

What caught him by surprise was a quick growth spurt.

After measuring in at 6 feet, 6.5 inches last season, Sandfort now stands just over an inch taller.

Recent measurements uncovered that Sandfort is between 6-foot-7.5 and 6-7.75 inches tall.

"Since the end of the year I grew an inch, actually. I didn’t expect that. I hadn’t grown in the last couple of years, but I’ll take it," Sandfort said Wednesday. "It kind of caught me by surprise."

Sandfort expects that added inch to make a difference on the court.

In an era when basketball has grown into more of a position-less game, Sandfort is preparing to compete at three different spots for Iowa during the upcoming season.

He said coaches want him to be capable of playing the 2, 3 or 4 positions, a range that could see him lining up from anywhere from a traditional shooting guard’s spot to either forward position.

Sandfort suspects his defense may dictate where he sees the bulk of his playing time during the upcoming season.

This summer he is working to develop a level of comfort playing against the different shapes and sizes of players he could line up against.

"I’m trying to get on the floor any way I can, but I think it starts on the defensive end," Sandfort said. "Being quicker and being able to guard various positions, I know that will matter. I’m trying to continue to improve on some of my strengths and athleticism."

Sandfort gained an understanding of that as he worked his way through his freshman season.

"It was a real up-and-down experience. I thought I grew a lot as a player, but more importantly, as a person," Sandfort said.

"You have to go through a lot of trouble to get to where you want to be. I was really proud of myself for how I handled a lot of adversity. I really got rolling at the end of the year, and I’ll take that into next season."

There were times when Sandfort questioned which direction things might turn.

After playing double-digit minutes in eight of his first 13 college games, the Waukee, Iowa, native played fewer than seven minutes in five of his next six games as Iowa worked into the core of its Big Ten schedule.

"I really wasn’t contributing a whole lot or playing a whole lot," Sandfort said. "But, I kept working."

The work led to opportunities that led to production, and Sandfort’s minutes grew late in the season, providing the Hawkeyes with a solid shooting option off the bench.

He scored in double figures twice in Iowa’s four wins at the Big Ten tournament, including a 10-point performance in the Hawkeyes’ title game win over Purdue.

Sandfort had accomplished what he set out to do, built a solid foundation for the future.

That experience now provides the base Sandfort expects to grow from as he prepares for his sophomore year.

"I’m excited about the future," he said. "I’m looking to contribute any way I can."

Sandfort is also working to recruit his younger brother, Pryce Sandfort.

The 6-7 small forward is preparing for his senior season at Waukee High School and currently has scholarship offers from Iowa, Nebraska, Washington State and Drake.

"I’ve been pushing him a little bit. I wasn’t at first, but I really loved my first year here and told him all about it," Sandfort said. "But, it’s his own process. I don’t want to force him into anything but obviously it would be real fun to play with him."


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