(Editor's note: MTN Sports is featuring a Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year finalist nightly leading into this year's awards banquet Wednesday, May 18, at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Ten graduating seniors (five boys, five girls) in Billings are nominated annually by coaches and activities directors before Roundtable members, a group of longtime sports enthusiasts in Billings, vote on one male and one female winner. In rare instances, the award has been shared.)
BILLINGS - Billings Skyview's Payton Sanders is an outstanding three-sport athlete, but confesses he sometimes battles himself each morning.
"It's a love-hate relationship, you know. It's just so much work," Sanders told MTN Sports with a grin.
He isn't talking about basketball, football, or track. He's talking about his hair.
"In the mornings, it's all frizzy and pretty much looks like an Afro. I've got to comb it out, get the curls a little nice," he explained. "I love it though, it's just so fun to just..." as his voice trails off while shaking his head back and forth, curls flying freely.
Sanders helped Skyview win back-to-back State AA championships in 2020 and 2021. As a junior, he canned the game-winning basket just before icing the title with a block as time expired to edge Great Falls High and was named State Tourney MVP.
These days, as he gets set to play for Dawson Community College, Sanders runs the point as freely as his curls fly typically looking for the sweet pass.
"I love kicking to the open guy, seeing him score and then pointing at him, you know," he said. "Get a good pass, you feel good and just want to go do it again."
This season Sanders was Skyview's team MVP on the basketball court.
We wonder if his secret to success may be in the shoes.
"I'm a shoe guy. I've got a lot of Jordans, some Nikes, some designer," Sanders said while running down the calendar on them. "There's, like, my good shoes which I wear probably once a month, and then there's my shoes I just wear everywhere."
We may never know whether his secret truly is in the shoes — or the curls.