Payton Willis played two seasons at Vanderbilt before entering the transfer pool. He sat out the 2018-2019 season per NCAA requirements. In his sophomore season with the Commodores, Willis averaged 5.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game. This included 34.9% from three-point range on 3.5 attempts per game.
As a guard who can play the one or two, Willis measures in at 6’4” and 200 pounds. He will provide similar positional versatility as the likes of Gabe Kalscheur, Tre’ Williams, BJ Greenlee, and Marcus Carr. He will don #0 for the Golden Gophers.
Payton is a former AAU teammate of fellow Gopher Eric Curry. Both hail from the state of Arkansas. He was also named the “unofficial MVP” of the team’s trip to Italy that took place at the beginning of August.
What can we expect?
Willis appears to be a more experienced version of Tre’ Williams. In an article written by Marcus Fuller of the Star-Tribune , Payton was quoted as saying, “Offensively, I’ll try to space the floor with my shooting and playmaking. I’ll get other people involved... whatever coach needs me to do I’ll do it. But I like being able to do all types of things.” This is a promising quote that illustrates both Willis’s skill set and his overall attitude and demeanor.
What’s interesting about Willis is there is a decent sample size of what he has done against high level opponents. He averaged 5.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 18.5 minutes his sophomore season in Nashville with Vanderbilt. While the SEC from top to bottom isn’t quite as strong as the Big Ten, Willis has competed against top programs in the past and been able to hold his own against this level of competition. This kind of experience will be pretty valuable to a team that contains four freshman and four sophomores.
Payton will be another switchable guard who will hopefully improve the team’s overall ability to shoot from the outside. He and sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur are roommates and apparently get work in at the gym together on a regular basis. It will be interesting to see Willis become a part of a deep rotation of guards who all appear to be decent shooters and defenders.