Basketball

Patyon Willis: College Basketball Journeyman

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Minnesota Golden Gopher guard Payton Willis just played the best game of his storied college basketball career. In a 68-65 home win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Willis scored a career-high 32 points (8 3-pointers), 7 assists, and 3 rebounds. To say Willis’ college basketball journey has been one heck of a roller coaster ride would be accurate.

After a stellar career at Fayetteville HS in Fayetteville, AR, Willis had several scholarship offers. Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Dayton, and Louisiana-Monroe to name a few. Willis chose Vanderbilt and headed to Nashville. After two years at Vanderbilt, there was a coaching change and Willis decided to transfer. At the time, the transfer portal hadn’t yet begun. Willis had to sit out the 2018-19 season, per NCAA regulations back then. Willis now was off to Minnesota. Golden Gophers head coach Ben Johnson had recruited Payton heavily in the past. Coach Johnson put Willis on the redshirt list 2018-19 season.

As a redshirt junior in 2019-20, Willis appeared in 28 games averaging 8.6 points per game. However, Willis missed several games that season due to injury. And a deep desire to play 2-guard, Willis decided to transfer again. This time to College of Charleston and play there one season 2020-21. He was able to play 2-guard and had a stellar year, hitting 40% from 3-point land. He averaged 13.4 points per game.

That was supposed to be Willis’ last year of eligibility there at the College of Charleston. Yet the NCAA granted one extra year of eligibility to all athletes due to covid. In a rather nostalgic move, Willis went back to Minnesota for his last college season 2021-22.

Payton Willis’ college basketball career was made reference to a long time ago by poet Robert Frost: “Two roads diverge in a wood. And I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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