Payton Dastrup is one of the top 2014 center prospects on the West Coast. Here's a highlight reel of…
"There's a pretty big buzz going around on Twitter and around Arizona with the class of 2014 being such a good class," said Dastrup. "Overall it's just a great blessing being recruited by so many high quality Division I schools and being given the opportunity to get an education from so many schools just because I'm talented enough to do what I do. It's been interesting to see how many schools can offer based on one game, or it's interesting to see which schools recruit more or have greater interest than others. It's just been a really cool opportunity to see how many have come and offered."
Dastrup has racked up a ton of scholarship offers from schools located all over the country.
"I have around 27 offers right now and it's been pretty cool," Dastrup said. "I have offers from all of the Pac-12, so every school from the Pac-12 has offered me, so that's 12 offers right there. BYU has offered me and Utah State has offered. U.C. Davis and Texas A&M, Florida, Virginia, Kansas, Boston College and St. John's just offered me this past weekend. Those are the colleges I can remember off the top of my head."
To date, Dastrup hasn't narrowed down his list of colleges. Although recruiting can be stressful at times, especially when one has so many colleges constantly knocking on their door, Dastrup is simply biding his time.
"I'm still kind of taking it easy," he said. "I still have one more period in the live period and that's in Las Vegas this weekend. I'm actually playing in two tournaments, one with the California Supreme or CSEYB team, and another with a team called Nevada Select which has two guys from Utah that are in the Fab 48 where Dalton [Nixon] plays as well. It's my last weekend in AAU club ball altogether, so I'm just going to play my heart out and see if I can pick up any other interest or offers before I narrow down my schools to around five or seven."
There have been many high profile LDS basketball players that have gained national attention over the past couple of recruiting classes. Ranked as one of the top basketball players in the nation for the 2013 class, Jabari Parker put his LDS faith on the national stage, especially after picking BYU as one of his top five schools before ultimately choosing Duke. Others, such as Dastrup, have continued shining the light on living a higher standard.
"I don't know if it all kind of started with Jabari Parker, but in the past year or two he really kind of moved up in his rankings overall because of the way he composed himself on and off the court," Dastrup said. "He's a super humble kid and I've gotten to know him pretty well talking to him about recruiting and stuff like that. I mean, overall with the LDS kids that are highly ranked and/or are playing high-level basketball in high school, it's really cool to see we're out there doing what we love but live by our standards."
What is remarkable about Dastrup is his willingness to use his abilities as a platform to share his values. He'll be playing on a tournament team this weekend with teammates that he's had a chance to share his values with.
"I know that, at least for me and my team, half of them are from Compton and half are from downtown L.A., so it's not the most standard-living or moral-abiding group of individuals I would say," Dastrup said with a chuckle. "Being the only white guy in the entire program and then being Mormon kind of makes me have to share my standards and say, ‘No, I don't do that and here's why.' I talk to them a lot and they're really cool about it.
"I always joke around about it when I come back from a tournament and say, ‘Man, I think I just taught a discussion a week!' I mean, they ask about the mission and they ask about it all, like, ‘So, you have to wait till you're married before you can have sex?' I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's right,' and they're like, ‘Are you kidding me?' It's really interesting to see their reaction. A lot of them will say, ‘Man, that's so cool and you're my hero! That's awesome man. Good job and keep going. We won't do anything to stop you from doing that.' It's really cool to see, and not just me but other LDS guys like Dalton [Nixon] and T.J. [Haws] be a part of that too as we showcase our skills. It's like we're getting a taste of the mission field early while we play basketball for our individual high schools."
In fact, Dastrup will often joke with his tournament teammates about playing for the Cougars.
"I'm not telling them what to do and what not to do and things like that," said Dastrup. "Sometimes I'll joke around with some of these guys and say, ‘So, you're coming to BYU right?' And they're like, ‘Aw dude, are you kidding me? Man, that's like torture man.' I'm like, ‘Come on man, it's not that bad.' I'm like, ‘Mormons aren't weird people and we have normal lives.' It just gives me a chance to put things into perspective for everyone and it's cool."
While Dastrup often stands as a singular beacon for his faith, he knows that BYU does the same but on a much larger scale.
"With BYU being the LDS school and having the religion be a part of the school, and having the guys on the team going to tournaments around the country, makes it a place that automatically brings attention to the standards that are associated with it," said Dastrup. "It makes people know who we are. One, because of the name that we carry with the Church and stuff, and two, because of the fan base that BYU has.
"There's always a big fan-following no matter where you go, whether it's football or basketball, track, men's volleyball, women's volleyball, or any sport associated with BYU. Overall what we stand for and what we're about is really important, especially at BYU where we are able to go out and have those experiences where we can talk to teams and people you see in a pregame situation like on the street. It's an opportunity for people to know who you are and see that you live your religion off the floor no matter where you are. So, I think that's what BYU pretty much means to me and stuff like that."
So what type of campus environment is Dastrup looking for?
"Overall, just a good feel for the campus," Dastrup said. "I mean, it doesn't really have to be a college town out in the middle of nowhere like a Pullman, Washington where you're out in the middle of nowhere and it's just Washington State. It doesn't have to be like that, but Pullman is an awesome place and I give a shout out to the people out there. Laramie, Wyoming is a place I'd never want to go to. I've driven through there once or twice and it's not pretty. I mean, just an overall good feel for the campus and good facilities that I'll be using. I want to go to a place with good academics. It doesn't really have to be close to home."
Dastrup hasn't decided whether or not he wants to attend a college near home.
"Being close to home, there are pros and cons," said Dastrup. "One, you get to be close to family and friends and stuff, and it's important to those that have been a part of your life to be able to go to your games and stuff, like the Pac-12 where all the games are played on the West Coast where it's close to where I live. It's easy access to family up in Utah or in California. Also, I would say then being away from home would give me the opportunity to grow up on my own and make decisions that I'll be having to make once I find a spouse and start my own family. So, it will give me a little bit of a head start.
Dastrup, who has mission plans, is also taking playing time into account when evaluating his options.
"Then when it comes to basketball, being able to come in as a freshman and either be a starter or a contributing factor would be a good fit for me to be in," Dastrup said. "I wouldn't really want to come in right after my mission and have to redshirt because I'm not in game shape or I'm not up to game quality of what the coaches want me to be in, because that would be three years off from basketball. So, [I'd like] being able to come in as a freshman and be able to contribute to the game."
The nation's top-ranked LDS center is also looking to join a program that has continuity with its coaching staff.
"Also, I want a stable coaching staff where the head coach isn't bouncing around or on the end of his rope with his contract, [and that] is something important to me.," Dastrup said. "I just want to be a part of a program that is stable and won't be changing."
Being among a group of athletes with different values can lead to teaching moments, much like Dastrup is currently experiencing with some of his teammates. However, being among people with similar values can also provide a positive experience. Dastrup has thought about this interesting dichotomy that, one way or another, he'll be a part of when it comes to a final decision.
"Like I said before, I'm playing in two tournaments – one with my California team which has players from Compton and L.A., and another where my head coach is LDS and from St. George, Utah. I mean, I've played with them for the past two years, and so I've experienced where I've not had the support [and] where I have to stick up for myself and say, ‘Okay, I'm not going to do this. Okay, I can do that but I can't do this.' I have to set my own guideline and use that to say, ‘If BYU is not the place, having had those experiences of not having everyone have the same morals and values that I have, it will really help me seeing how the guys will respect me on the team.' I can still be who I am and won't have to change on or off the court."
This concludes the first part of a two-part series with Payton Dastrup. In the second part, Dastrup talks about his road to basketball, Coach Rose and his staff, the talented LDS players coming to BYU, and much more.