IU basketball recruiting: Transfer portal names to know — Ball State’s Payton Sparks

We’ve entered transfer portal season for Indiana, and we’ll be profiling players the IU staff shows interest during what should be a eventful spring.

One of the first names to pop on the radar will be familiar to many Indiana fans.

Payton Sparks is a left-handed post player from Winchester, Indiana, and someone the previous IU staff had an eye on.

Coming out of high school, the 6-foot-9, 240 pounder Sparks was someone many thought had a high ceiling who could blossom at the college level.  And that appears to be the path he is on.

As a freshman at Ball State, Sparks had a team-best 13.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per contest in 28 minutes per game.  He was named the MAC Conference Freshman of the Year and third-team All-MAC Conference.

Sparks put his name in the transfer portal last week when the Cardinals were eliminated from the postseason and following the departure of head coach James Whitford.

Now the question is whether Sparks can continue his rise to success at the high major level.

On3’s Joe Tipton reported several schools were in contact with Sparks right away after he hit the portal including Texas Tech, West Virginia, Illinois, Ole Miss, Indiana, Loyola-Chicago, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Wichita State, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Central Michigan, Miami (OH), Liberty, Cornell, Hofstra, College of Charleston.

Sparks tallied 418 points this season and is third as a Ball State freshman in all-time scoring, behind Bonzi Wells (474) and Ray McCallum (463). Sparks attempted 202 free throws this season, which is tied for 14th in the NCAA and leads the MAC. He attempted more free throws than any other freshman in the NCAA. Sparks finished second on the team with 15 blocks. He recorded 12 double-doubles on the season to lead all freshmen and finished second in the MAC. Sparks finished the season with 24 games scoring double figures and 13 games with double-digit rebounds. Sparks’ 8.45 rebounds per game is fourth in the MAC, while his 13.48 points per game is 17th in the conference.

One question for Indiana and other high majors — can Sparks either score in the post against top-tier competition, or can he move his game out to the perimeter?  He made 54.8 percent of his 2-point attempts as a freshman, but only attempted seven 3-pointers and missed them all.  Programs will have to determine his fit at the high major level.

In high school Sparks was named small school all-state and conference player of the year. He played for Midwest Basketball Club on the AAU circuit and also lettered in tennis.

Video credits – Ball State Sports Link

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