Dastrup Really Enjoys Florida Experience

He isn't your normal superstar basketball prospect in many ways. He's humble, sincere, spiritual, but he's also versatile on the court. His style of play is something that fits Billy Donovan and the Florida Gator style to a tee. Payton Dastrup is a 6-10, 230 pound nationally fifth ranked center and he got to see Florida basketball first-hand this past weekend.

Florida hosted Arkansas last weekend and won going away 71-54. The O'Connell Center, otherwise known as the O'Dome was rocking early and often with fans and a few big time basketball prospects that were also in attendance. Payton Dastrup was one of those and his weekend in Gainesville really opened his eyes to what it would be like being a Florida Gator.

"It was great," Dastrup said of the visit. "The overall experience was the best and it exceeded the expectations, especially for an unofficial visit. Getting to meet the coaching staff and the guys and see the campus and the atmosphere that was there, I really liked it."

The fan contingent really seemed to make an impression on Dastrup. The students, who normally camp out sometimes days before games in order to get inside and watch, were there early for this one and setting up the atmosphere for an exciting time for their favorite team.

"It was unbelievable," Dastrup said. "The other recruits and I got to the O'Dome an hour and a half before the game and the student section was completely full. It seemed like 3,000 students. The fact they were there supporting their team, it was great just seeing that support."

Coach Donovan also made sure that the prospects got to be a part f the game time experience at Florida.

"Getting to go into the locker room and listen to the pre-game and post-game with the guys and seeing what they go through for a home game," he said. "That was definitely a neat experience."

Dastrup stayed overnight in Gainesville. He calls home Mesa (AZ) and so he stayed a while to get to really see what the university has to offer. This allowed him some time to get some more favorable impressions of the Gators.

"There were a couple of things," he said in response to the question of what stood out on his trip. "The thing that stood out the most was the one-on-one time with Coach Donovan Sunday morning. Sitting in his office and just talking about life in general. Not about basketball, but about me going on my mission and how it would affect me.

"He was completely honest with everything he says. He says he just wants guys to succeed wherever they go, not just at Florida. I don't know if you saw my tweet, but I posted, ‘Coach Billy Donovan is one of the most personable men I've met #classact.' He was so fun to be around, which means everything."

Dastrup also seemed impressed with the geographic layout of the campus and the ease of which the basketball players can conduct almost all of their studies, work, workouts, and such in one general area of campus.

"The other thing was I liked the closeness with the campus," he said. "With the dorms, student athletes facilities, and the O'dome, it is like a triangle and just a five minute walking distance to any of them. "I think those are the things I liked the best."

So why is Dastrup a good fit at Florida. Well, he is 6-10 and can run the floor. He can muscle inside against most, but the kicker is he can shoot deep and is a deft three-point shooter. Donovan made it known to Dastrup about the conducive styles.

"Coach Donovan Sunday morning sat down and me and my dad talked to him, he didn't compare me to Erik Murphy but said the skill set that I have and the skill set that he has developed are very similar," Dastrup said. "We can shoot the ball and extend the defense so that the post player will have to guard us out on the perimeter. Just the things he does with some pick and rolls and having Patric Young low to the basket and then Murphy pop and getting up the shot or an easy post entry. Those are things that aren't done with my high school team, but both things that I can see running and being successful."

These are the things that Dastrup thinks make him a unique player and doing both allows him to size up any defender and attack the weakness of that particular defender.

"I like being the versatile guy," he said. "It provides some mismatches for me to create. If there is a guy that is physically stronger or bigger than I am I can take him out and make him defend the shot. If there is a smaller defender on me, I can post and create myself some shots at the basket."

Dastrup is also a humble prospect. He knows he has some things to work on. As a junior, he was often times option 1, 2, and 3 for his high school team and so teams collapsed all around him and forced some turnovers. Averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and almost 90% from the free throw line, there is one area he would like to improve.

"In high school I turned the ball over about four times a game which is a lot for a big man," Dastrup said. "The double teams and triple teams were forcing me to make passes and some were rushed and too high or too low, or they were stolen or kicked. There were some times I would catch the ball and be too quick to move. Just patience overall is what I need to work on and then making the best decisions."

In the end, Dastrup says there are some things he will base his final college choice on, distance not being one of them. Being a devout member of the Church of Latter Day Saints is a big part of his decision.

"I want to be able to determine as a freshman whether I decide to play (in college for the first time) before I go on my mission or play first in 2016, either way I want to come in and have a contributing role to the team, either as a starter, which would be amazing, or if I came off the bench as the energy guy that came in and did the dirty work and gave the starter a rest.

"Distance isn't a factor for me. I know people want to be close to home because family and friends can come to support and watch games almost at will, but being away gives the student athlete the opportunity to grow up on his own and get a taste of life. He can be by himself where there aren't all the distractions of family and friends checking in on you.

"I want to be able to have a stable coaching staff where the head coach isn't worried if their job is at stake unless they win. I want to be able to have a staff with a head coach and assistants that are comfortable where they are and love where they are."

Stay tuned to Scout.com and FOX Sports NEXT as we continue to follow the progress of one of the nation's elite players for the class of 2014.


Fightin Gators Top Stories