Sandfort ready to make impact for Iowa men’s basketball

The freshman guard will try to help the Hawkeyes plug holes left by the departures of Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, and Luka Garza.


Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iowa center Payton Sandfort (20) runs a drill during NCAA men’s basketball practice, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

The University of Iowa men’s basketball team’s starting lineup is going to feature at least three new faces this season.

The Hawkeyes lost guards Joe Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick and center Luka Garza shortly after the 2020-21 season concluded. Garza and Wieskamp moved on to careers in the National Basketball Association with the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, respectively, and Fredrick transferred to University of Kentucky.

In total, the trio accounted for about 55 percent of Iowa’s scoring last season. Fredrick, Wieskamp, and Garza were also the Hawkeyes’ top three shooters from 3-point territory.

Fredrick, Wieskamp, and Garza ranked second, third, and 11th, respectively, in the Big Ten Conference in 3-point shooting percentage. All three players made over 40 percent of their attempts from distance.

One of the players on Iowa’s 2021-22 roster that could help fill the void left by Garza, Wieskamp, and Fredrick is freshman Payton Sandfort.

From Waukee, Iowa, Sandfort stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 215 pounds. His frame isn’t dissimilar to that of the 6-foot-6, 205-pound Wieskamp.

Sandfort’s imposing stature isn’t the only thing that might help him meet some of Iowa’s needs on the wing.

“Payton’s a really good shooter and can shoot the ball lights out along with being aggressive,” sophomore center Josh Ogendule said.

While Sandfort does have the intangible skills and physical frame needed to play on the wing in college basketball, he and his teammates still have some work to do before they’re ready to hit the hardwood.

“[Nonconference] games are really important for us since we have a lot of new guys in a lot of new roles,” Sandfort said. “We’ve just gotta find our footing in those games before we get into the bulk of the season.”

Sandfort’s role for the upcoming 2021-22 season is currently a bit unclear. In practice, Sandfort has worked with multiple lineups as Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery tries to pin down his rotation.

“We throw out different lineups every day on both sides and really compete against each other and really any team can win at any time,” Sandfort said. 

Sandfort’s efforts at practice haven’t gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches, leading the likes of sophomore forward Keegan Murray to believe that Sandfort will see meaningful minutes on the floor this season.

“I feel like he’ll have a pretty big role in this team since he shoots the ball at a high clip,” Murray said. “He’s grown in the defensive aspect. So, if he just keeps his mind right, he’ll have a big season.”

Sandfort and the Hawkeyes will open their season with an exhibition match against Slippery Rock Nov. 5.

The Hawkeyes will play their season-opener against Longwood at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Nov. 9.

Big Ten Conference play officially begins Jan. 3, when the Hawkeyes take on Maryland at home. Iowa does, however, have two league matchups against Illinois and Purdue scheduled for Dec. 3 and 6.

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