I'll admit that I don't know that much about Payton Banks. I know that he's a 6'6" versatile forward from Orange, California, and I know he wears number zero, which I have always thought was cool, even throughout Gilbert Arenas's career. I don't know if he would be better off redshirting this season or playing right away, but I also don't know why he hasn't played in a game this year (besides the fact that he's probably being redshirted).
It's not as though he hasn't been needed. Penn State has had five players foul out over its last two games (as of Tuesday, before what I'm sure will be a thrashing of 2012 tournament darling LaSalle). Four of those players have been forwards, and that meant that Julian Moore and Alan Wisniewski had to come off the bench to play double-digit minutes versus Penn.
Wisniewski is barely a Division I player. Moore seems talented, but he's more of an energy/short blocker type as he's recently gone through a growth spurt. Certainly you can imagine some growing pains being involved with him. Banks, on the other hand, appears more talented and polished, at least based on this Pat Chambers quote from the Penn State official site.
Payton is 6-6, big, thick, athletic, high IQ, and can play multiple positions. He literally can play one through four. He's got a great handle and a terrific mid-range jumper. He'll dunk on you if he has to and he will post you up. Versatility is how I would describe Payton Banks.
"High IQ," "great handle," and "mid-range jumper" are not words used to describe a player who needs some seasoning before stepping into the fray. In fact, those traits, along with Bank's "thick" frame, remind me of another undersized PSU forward. This one stepped right on the court as a freshman and shined. His name was Jamelle Cornley.
I get that Banks probably won't end up as good as Cornley was, but his description is just too similar to the former standout to ignore. Cornley used his thick frame to bump his way into the paint and create space against taller opponents, but he could also face-up from the top of the key and knock down a 15-footer if needed. That kind of versatility was a key to Penn State winning the NIT in 2009, and I hate to have to wait to see if Banks can have a similar impact.
Making that wait painful is the lack of depth that Penn State has in the frontcourt. With freshman Graham Woodward and Geno Thorpe looking like adequate backups in the backcourt, the front line is stuck with leaning on Donovon Jack to be productive as a starter (hasn't happened yet) along with reserves Moore and Wisniewski. With starter Brandon Taylor living on the perimeter, there is even more need for some bulk off the bench.
Banks isn't necessarily a banger, but he could easily be the first forward off the bench for Penn State if he were playing this season. He could even sub on the wing or at shooting guard if Chambers needed him there. For now, though, we'll probably have to wait until next winter to see what Banks can bring to the table.