Penn State Basketball

Banks playing with confidence in first year as starter

Penn State’s Payton Banks dribbles around DePaul’s Billy Garrett Jr. during the Tuesday, November 17, 2015, basketball game at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State won, 68-62.
Penn State’s Payton Banks dribbles around DePaul’s Billy Garrett Jr. during the Tuesday, November 17, 2015, basketball game at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State won, 68-62.

Payton Banks said he gets in his own head a lot.

It was one of his problems during his first year at Penn State.

But he’s learned he can’t think too much at this level.

So when Banks received a pass with the game tied Saturday, he felt prepared to make the shot. He stuck to his routine and buried the 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left to help the Nittany Lions to a 62-58 win over Bucknell.

“That was probably the biggest shot of my career, of my life, to be honest with you,” Banks said.

It was a big shot for the Nittany Lions (3-2) as the win ended a two-game slide. It also provided a boost to the team’s morale — Banks said he and his teammates went out to dinner after the win.

They’re looking to build on that confidence when they meet Boston College (3-3) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Banks heads into that matchup with more confidence after drilling the game-winning shot Saturday. The first-year starter is shooting just 30 percent from 3-point range this season, but he’s continued working on his shot.

“I think that’s why that shot goes down,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said of the game-winner against Bucknell.

Chambers said the team needs Banks to knock down 3-pointers. But Banks has proven valuable when his shot isn’t falling, attacking the basket on offense and dedicating himself on defense. He earned a starting spot this year despite not starting in any of the Penn State’s preseason scrimmages and playing just 8.7 minutes per game last season.

Banks, a redshirt sophomore, is averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 29.8 minutes in the team’s first five games.

Banks said he felt pressure stepping into the starting lineup.

But he’s tried to remember it’s a game he loves to play.

“It shouldn’t be a job, it shouldn’t be stressful, it should be something fun,” Banks said. “You’re playing in front of thousands of people every night, so just take it for what it is.”

Earning a starting spot, though, was all about hard work.

Chambers said Banks put in the time to get better during the summer and preseason.

But the process started when he redshirted his freshman season.

Banks arrived from Orange, Calif., thinking he was a shooter.

“Nobody really plays defense in high school,” Banks said.

But during his first year on campus, he quickly realized he’d need to play defense to get on the floor.

“I felt like I needed to find a way to separate myself, something that would have coach Chambers need to play me,” Banks said. “And I felt like coach Chambers has given me the ultimate confidence, trust in me, to help with the defense.”

After the season opener against VMI, Chambers called Banks the team’s best defender.

And he’s key to the offense as he ranks third on the team in scoring.

He said his 3-pointer against Bucknell proved to himself that he can play at this level. He felt confident when Chambers named him a starter, saying he’s just gone out and played instead of thinking too much.

But the game-winner reinforced that confidence because his teammates and coaches trusted him with the game on the line.

“I keep saying trust because that’s a huge thing for me because when given trust, then comes confidence,” Banks said. “And I feel like if somebody plays with confidence, there’s no stopping them.”

Ryne Gery: 814-231-4679, @rgery