Everything that Travis Busch needs, Kevin Payton has. Everything that Kevin Payton needs, Travis Busch has. And for this reason, instead of the Gophers having two solid contributors, they have two players that just can’t seem to fit in.
Kevin Payton has received more grief than any player on the current roster. He has been criticized to the point that some have advocated stripping him of his scholarship. Most players who average less than 10 minutes per game and barely score one point per game don’t draw much attention, let alone ire. But Kevin Payton is not most players.
He is tall. He is quick. He is fast. He is extremely athletic. He was a state champion hurdler who was one of the top scorers in New Jersey, not exactly a waste land of basketball talent. Physically, he should be a game changer, but basketball is not played on paper, and unfortunately for Kevin Payton and the Gophers, also requires some psychological mettle.
If Kevin Payton had Travis Busch’s intensity, decisiveness, and instincts, I have know doubt that not only would the Gophers not have a point guard problem, but Kevin Payton would be one of the better point guards in the Big Ten. How many other 6’4” point guards with above average ball handling and defensive skills are there in the conference?
However, of course, he will not appear on any all conference teams or receive a mention even when he is in the game. Payton’s problem is between his ears.
What we like
For all the criticism he has received, Payton has not let if affect him. He tries, which in this day and age, is more than can be said for a lot of Division one athletes. He goes to class, never misses a practice, and by all accounts adds a sense of stability and maturity in the locker room that will be even more important this year with the influx of young talent.
He also has size and athleticism. Two things that can not be taught. If he has learned how to use what he has during the off-season, he could salvage what is left of his career.
What needs to improve
Either he thinks too much, or not enough. He has stood wide open, with no one within five feet of him, and stood completely still. After an excruciating few seconds, he will often launch an off rhythm shot as a defender rushes at him. This helps explain while he shot 3 of 20 from the field last year. If he isn’t paralyzed with fear or indecision, he is charging full-bore into a sea of defenders, with the best possible outcome being a turn over that that doesn’t lead to a fast break. A 1:1 point to turn over ratio is not a good thing. His only hope seems to be to get some confidence, some basketball knowledge, or both. If not, the Gophers will have to rely on a freshman and a sophomore to run their offense, while a junior sits on the bench.
What to expect
I’m a Kevin Payton guy. I recognize that not every one can be a star, and that having a good person on a team can be just as important as a good scorer. Having said that, I don’t anticipate that Kevin Payton will be able to effectively tap into the skills and athleticism that he has and the team needs. Expect what you saw last year, a guy who can play above average defense with great speed, but also a guy who often looks lost on the offensive end.