Indiana has its first addition from the transfer portal this offseason.
Hello, Payton Sparks.
Sparks, who played two seasons with the Ball State Cardinals in Muncie, announced on Wednesday he would play for Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers. Sparks picked Indiana over a long list of suitors, including Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma.
Sparks is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward/center with two years of NCAA eligibility remaining. He graduated from Winchester High School located in Winchester, Indiana. Sparks visited Indiana during high school before he landed at Ball State, but ultimately decided to ride with the Cardinals. Sparks did not play AAU ball.
In his career with the Cardinals, Sparks averaged 13.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He was awarded the 2021-22 MAC Freshman of the Year, and earned a spot on the 2021-22 All-MAC Third Team and the 2022-23 All-MAC Second Team.
Sparks was coached by formed IU point guard Michael Lewis at Ball State last season. He was coached by James Whitford the previous year, prior to Whitford’s dismissal after the 2021/22 season. Therefore, Woodson will be Sparks’ third coach in three years.
Last offseason, Woodson and staff went after Sparks in the portal, but Sparks chose to stick with the Ball State program after Lewis’ hiring.
Payton Sparks is a left hand-dominant big who is proficient scoring in the low post. He doesn’t hesitate to use his off hand when necessary, and is comfortable stretching the floor to 16 feet. He did attempt five threes last season, making two of them. He also doesn’t hesitate to distribute the ball to an open teammate if the defense surrounds him.
Defensively, while there is always room for improvement, he shows a knack for high-pointing the basketball for blocked shots, and when he doesn’t do that, he’s a force on the glass. He recorded 10 double-doubles this past season, and two other games where he had double-digit rebounds. Sparks grabbed at least seven boards in each of his last 11 games at Ball State.
Sparks has not only played in all 62 Cardinals games since the start of his career, he has started in each and every one, averaging 28.6 MPG in his career. Durability is one of his biggest strengths.
Though his size and athleticism precede him, Sparks’ free-throw percentage has fallen to 53%, the lowest among all D-1 players who average at least five free throw attempts per game.
With no Trayce Jackson-Davis, no Race Thompson, and no Logan Duncomb down low, Sparks could team up with Malik Reneau, Jordan Geronimo, as well as a potential newcomer or two to rebuild a strong frontcourt.
He is the first new player to commit to IU since Reneau on April 18th, 2022. Assuming Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino leave, and Xavier Johnson’s medical hardship waiver gets approved, the Hoosiers still have three spots left.
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Featured Image: Payton Sparks / Ball State