The temperature isn’t the only thing heating up in the state of Kentucky this summer.
Harley Paynter, a senior at Boyd County High School, is a hot name on the women’s basketball recruiting trail, picking up seven scholarship offers since June 16.
As of Friday, Paynter holds offers from Charleston Southern, Evansville, Fresno State, Jacksonville State, Morehead State, Murray State, Navy, Samford, Tennessee Tech, Toledo, and Western Kentucky, a list that is growing day by day.
Murray State, Western Kentucky, Toledo, and Morehead State were the first to offer early in her career. She committed to Morehead State last October but decided to open her recruitment earlier this spring.
“I just felt the need to open things back up and see what I could get,” Paynter said. “I enjoyed the coaches, the players, and everything, but I just wanted to make one hundred percent sure on that decision because you only get this opportunity one time.”
Signing with Morehead State is still an option for the Boyd County star, but there’s more company at the table.
Paynter’s Twitter feed in recent weeks is a blend of scholarship offers and workout videos, both a reflection of her commitment to getting better during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic challenged everyone involved in sports to get creative, especially players who didn’t have access to facilities for workouts. For Paynter, it was an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive and spend more time working on her game.
“I feel like, before quarantine, I was a completely different player than what I am now. I have improved so much. I’ve tried to take the time and use it positively. I have a basketball goal now. I had to get one because I didn’t have one.”
The 5-foot-7 native of Grayson, Kentucky, does a little of everything during workouts, including weight training, pushing sleds, battle ropes, and running bleachers.
“I was not used to doing that at all. I haven’t always been a big weight lifter, but during quarantine, I was thinking about what people told me I need to improve on. One thing was getting stronger. I was doing anything I could to stay in shape.
“I don’t have a set thing that I do, but I usually run two miles. I always do ball-handling every day. I do situps every night until I literally can’t do them anymore, and I have some dumbbells now that I use.”
Those outdoor workouts have since moved indoors, where Paynter can be seen in videos knocking down shot after shot and getting creative with moves she hopes to use at Boyd County this season.
“At the gym, I start with my inside shots close to the basket. I do seven spots of 15 footers and make 17 of those in each spot. I go to the three-point line and make three in a row in each spot. I usually do ball-handling into different finishes.”
In addition to individual work, Paynter recently joined the Cincinnati Angels AAU club, where she travels more than two hours each way three days a week for scrimmages and skills training.
“I love it,” Paynter said about joining the Angels. “It is probably my favorite team I’ve ever been on. I love the family feel they have. We have Zoom meetings and meetings with just the girls all the time. Here in Kentucky, you still have to have your own basket and your own ball and keep your distance, but in Ohio, it feels back to normal. We can scrimmage now.”
Paynter has put in the work to take her game to another level this season at Boyd County High School, where she is already one of the most successful players to wear the red and white for the Lady Lions.
In her high school career, she’s totaled 2,176 points and 866 rebounds. She helped lead Boyd County to the state tournament twice, including the Final Four during her freshman season, where she was named All-Tournament.
As a junior, Paynter was named third-team All-State after averaging 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals per game while shooting 51-percent from the field and 38-percent from three-point range.
Another campaign similar to that, and she will find herself in the conversation for Kentucky Miss Basketball.
“That would be amazing. That is something I definitely would love to have the opportunity to get, and I’m continuing to work, so hopefully, it happens.”
While Paynter continues to earn scholarship offers, she’s hopeful of adding Power 5 programs to her list, specifically Kentucky. Before her commitment to Morehead State last October, Paynter had taken a couple of unofficial visits to Kentucky, including a trip to Big Blue Madness in 2016.
“It would mean a lot,” Paynter said when asked about possibly earning an offer from Kentucky. “That’s a school that I’ve watched since I was little. I was a cheerleader until fifth grade, and that’s when I started playing soccer and basketball. I started following Kentucky when I started playing basketball. My whole family is UK fans, and it would mean a lot. I don’t want to take anything away from the schools that are recruiting me because I would be honored to play for any of these amazing programs.”
No matter where Paynter’s basketball career takes her, she’s following God’s plan for her life and career. Not only did she commit to more basketball work during quarantine, she often shares scripture on social media.
“That was something I was focused on because I feel like when you’re making that kind of decision, God is the only one that can lead you to the right place. I know he will tell me when the time is right and where to go.”
Never gonna ? working‼️ pic.twitter.com/56tnO00zNR
— Harley Paynter (@HarleyDustyn14) July 10, 2020