Duncan Lloyd (@duncanmlloyd)
California hoops prospect Payton Banks, a senior at Orange Lutheran High School, has committed to Penn State, according to FOX/Scout.com writer Josh Gerson. Banks, a consensus two-star recruit after averaging 15.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 4.4 APG in his junior season, is a versatile 6’6” combo guard/forward who immediately ups the Nittany Lions’ toughness and athleticism. Playing alongside Arizona Wildcat signee Gabe York, Banks led Orange Lutheran to the CIF Southern Section Division 1A championship and was named First-Team Division 1A in California last season.
Banks, who also received scholarship offers from Auburn, Nevada, Oregon State, and Pepperdine, will be joined in Happy Valley next year by fellow 2013 recruits and Pennsylvania products Geno Thorpe, a consensus three-star point guard from Shaler Area High School in Pittsburgh, and Julian Moore, a consensus three-star center from Germantown Academy in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Orange Lutheran’s head coach, Chris Nordstrom, who has coached Payton since his freshman year, spoke highly of his star senior.
“Payton is a big wing player, he’s played for us all four perimeter positions for us,” Nordstrom said during a phone interview on Wednesday with CoBL. ”He’s been on varsity since his freshman year and in each of his three seasons, we’ve gone to the CIF championship and we finally broke through and won it last year. We often have him play our point, and at 6-5 and 225 lbs. and shooting at a 44-percent clip from 3-point range, he’s obviously been and is a great, versatile player for our program.”
Coach Nordstrom also indicated that Banks is more than just a blue chip athlete.
“The way [Payton] has most improved since I’ve coached him is his willingness to be our team’s leader,” he said. “We had six guys graduate last year, and we have a lot of sophomores getting significant time this year. In my 19 years of coaching high school basketball, Payton has more enthusiastically seized the opportunity to lead the team this season than any player I’ve ever seen. He’s done wonders for our younger players. He’s hungry to prove that he can be our focal point without Gabe [York] this season. He’s just been phenomenal.
Coach Nordstrom was also able to shine some light on how Payton and Penn State gravitated towards one another.
“Well, my old college neighbor, Eeop Ueo-Ema, is Payton’s AAU coach out here with the Compton Magic,” Nordstrom said. “Eeop and [PSU head coach] Pat Chambers also know one another. When Coach Chambers and his staff came to one of our workouts last spring, it just clicked.
“And once Payton gets [to Penn State], I think he’s gonna be really, really good. His frame, body type, and athleticism are all great fits for the Big 10. His physicality will immediately bring a lot to the table.”
When recently asked by Lions 24/7 sports reporter Andrew Dzurita about making his decision to don the blue and white after graduating from Orange Lutheran, Banks sounded focused and grounded, just as Coach Nordstrom described: “It’s huge, a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Now I can go into my senior year and perform to what is expected of me without worrying about where I’m going to go to college.”
And while he is fully committed to helping his the Lancers repeat as champions, it’s clear that Payton is also looking forward to eventually coming East.
“With the Big Ten conference in my future, I need to bulk up as a freshman coming in,” Banks told Lions 24/7. “If I can arrive on campus in the right physical condition, it will be a lot easier for me to transition into the college game. The style of play in the Big Ten, the teams in the conference are so good and every game will be extremely competitive. Get ready! I’m really happy and excited to be a part of the family.”
After nabbing their California Kid early in the 2013 recruiting process, PSU head coach Pat Chambers and Nittany Lion fans surely echo Payton and Coach Nordstrom’s enthusiasm for the future.