Northern Star: Payton Wefel

For this week's segment, meet one of the seniors on the Esko basketball team who's hoping to lead his team back to the state tournament.

ESKO, Minn. – After star senior guard Trevor Spindler suffered a season-ending injury just a few games in to the 2019 season, the Esko boys basketball team turned to fellow senior guard Payton Wefel to step up.

“He was a huge part of our team, being the guy we go to when we need a point and just that leader that we’ve had the past few years. I knew that immediately I needed to step up as a leader and take over some scoring and maybe defending better guys and really elevate my game,” Wefel said.

This regular season, Wefel averaged over 22 points per game and made 48 three pointers, both categories that led the team.

“Last year he was more of a spot-up shooter, somebody that we went to on the three point line. This year he’s turned into our do it all guy. He’s got a lot of assists, a lot of rebounds. He also leads some drills at practice for us too and gets all of the kids to buy into what we’re doing and you can see him in the huddle talking to people, too,” head coach Derek Anderson said.

Those improvements have given Wefel the opportunity to play at the next level. Last month, he committed to the College of St. Scholastica, joining five Northland athletes already on the team, including former teammate Quinn Fischer.

“I played with [Quinn] my ninth and 10th grade year and it was fun playing with him. I’ve been to a few of their games and he’s a great player. He said it’s like a family there, you’re not going to go anywhere else and get that family bond and everyone there likes to be there and wants to win, and St. Scholastica’s a winning culture,” Wefel said.

But first, Wefel is focusing on what’s next at Esko. The Eskomos have their eyes set on making their third straight trip to the state tournament.

“It’s a great environment down there, and it’s definitely different, something you’ve got to get used to so having a game down there and playing in that environment is huge because you get a little taste of what it’s like to go deep in the season,” Wefel said.

“He’s incredibly motivated. Not only him but the rest of this senior class. So now these guys are coming into it a new team, trying to prove a point that our tradition is pretty strong and they’re going to keep building on it,” Anderson added.

And Wefel is hoping for one more chance to bring Esko its first state title in six years.

“In ninth grade I was playing and I just kept on thinking “Oh I’ve got so much time left to play, I’ve got so many years. It’s kind of setting in for me, it’s kind of a shock. It’d be a huge. Leaving a mark on the Esko culture and going back to state, leading a team this year. Last year I had a little bit of a taste of it but, I want to get back down there,” Wefel said.

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