The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Driveway hoops to college recruits: The Sandfort brothers living out the dream

Payton and Pryce Sandfort are the latest set of brothers to team up for Fran McCaffery and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Grace Smith
Iowa forward Pryce Sandfort shoots a 3-pointer during game one of the Hy-Vee Hawkeye Showcase between Iowa men’s basketball and Florida A&M at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Rattlers 88-52.

Only a handful of siblings have played Division I sports for the same team at the same time. The Iowa men’s basketball program has done a good job making it seem regular over the last couple of years, with twin brothers Kris and Keegan Murray and head coach Fran McCaffery’s two sons, Connor and Patrick McCaffery, in the black and gold.

Payton and Pryce Sandfort are also members of that unique group.

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“It’s kind of what you grow up dreaming about,” Payton Sandfort said of playing college basketball with his younger brother in June 2023 via Go Iowa Awesome. “Seeing [Pryce] walk into practice has been a little weird, but I’m getting used to it. It’s been fun when we get to play on the same team and get to do a lot of the different things that we’ve been doing since we were like five or six years old. So, it’s been a ton of fun, and I’m happy he’s here.”

From Waukee, Iowa, the Sandfort brothers grew up with a basketball in their hands.

They’ve played the sport for nearly their entire lives, appearing in local rec leagues in the Des Moines area as early as five and six years old.

Payton Sandfort recalls playing against women’s college basketball superstar Caitlin Clark in the first and second grade.

“Well, it wasn’t fun,” Payton Sandfort said of playing against Clark. “Obviously, I was an emotional kid and wanted to win so badly. I remember they got us in the semifinals of the tournament, and I was just devastated, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh … is this what all girls are like?’”

Pryce Sandfort backed up his brother’s quote on being emotional, highlighting their fierce battles in the driveway when they were little kids.

“There’s some funny videos of us playing basketball outside, and Payton gets pissed I score on him or something,” he said. “[He would] just grab me and throw me to the ground. But there’s sometimes where I’d be scoring on him a lot, and he’d throw the ball into the garage and dent the garage.”

Their competitiveness against each other, along with their growth spurts, allowed them to improve as players and become national recruits by their high school years.

The two attended Waukee Community High School just outside of Des Moines. They played two seasons of high school basketball together, reaching the state semifinals in their first season.

With Payton approaching his senior season, a decision had to be made on where he would continue his basketball career. The three-star recruit had offers from Drake, Stanford, Utah, and Iowa, but ultimately chose to stay close to home and play for the Hawkeyes in October 2020.

“I just felt throughout the whole recruiting process, I’ve been really valued by Iowa,” he said upon committing to the Hawkeyes, according to The Des Moines Register. “I’m going to have a chance to come in and play right away. I love the coaches. I love the campus. Carver-Hawkeye Arena had a great atmosphere when I was in Iowa City.”

After the deflating loss in the state semifinals the year prior, the Sandforts hoped to redeem themselves by securing a state championship in high school. The brothers lead Waukee to to a 61-50 win over Johnston to capture the first state title in school history and ultimately put a happy ending to what would potentially be the siblings’ last game together.

Payton went on to have a solid first season at Iowa, while Pryce continued to build his stock as a top-100 player in the country during his junior prep season. He had multiple offers by the end of the school year from Drake, Clemson, Davidson, Seton Hall, and Iowa.

On July 29, 2022, the four-star forward was getting ready to take his official visit to Iowa City.

He told his parents beforehand there was a zero percent chance he would commit after the visit.

The soon-to-be high school senior immediately felt at home. He told the coaching staff he intended to commit just two days after the visit. His older brother was supposed to find out the following Friday when he returned home to Waukee. Pryce Sandfort couldn’t wait to tell his older brother he would be joining him, letting him know the next day.

“He didn’t believe it at first,” Pryce said via The Des Moines Register. “I FaceTimed him and showed him a graphic that someone made for me that said ‘committed,’ and he was like, ‘Where’d you find that?’ It didn’t process for him at first, but then he was really excited.”

Pryce Sandfort went on to have a stellar senior campaign that ended with him being named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball, while Payton notched the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year award.

Shortly after the 2022-23 school year, the Sandfort brothers practiced together as Iowa Hawkeyes for the first time.

Payton Sandfort said it’s been weird to have to pick his younger brother up and drive him around showing him the city, but “it’s been a lot of fun.”

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.