Senior guard Payton Mielke didn’t have a major role on the Elk River varsity team in 2018-19. Last season, Mielke only played in five games and scored two points.
This season, he is Elk River’s leading scorer with 222 points, averaging 10.1 per game.
Head coach Ryan Servaty said Mielke has been a big surprise for the Elks this season.
“[I] didn’t know what to expect from him coming in because I wasn’t in that gym last year wit them,” Servaty said. “The analytics of some of the reports that we run on game statistics showed that I need to give him a little bigger role and some more opportunity. Once we did, he didn’t disappoint. He’s taken it and run with it.”
Nowhere was this more evident than Mielke’s stretch from Feb. 3 to Feb. 8, scoring 70 points in a three-game stretch. He scored 24 points in the Elks 106-74 loss to No. 5 Spring Lake Park on Feb. 3. Mielke netted 19 against Centennial on Feb. 6 and scored 27 points against Big Lake on Feb. 8, setting both a single-season high and a career high. He also made 17 3-pointers on 28 attempts.
Mielke’s father played in high school and he said he continues the family tradition. His favorite basketball player is Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, who is 10th in the NBA this season in points-per game, averaging 26.4 per game.
“He’s a great player,” Mielke said. “He’s one of the top players in the league. He’s a team leader on the Suns. They don’t have a great record, but he’s a team leader. I try to copy what he does—pick up the team [and] hope the whole team strives to be better.”
Mielke is unsure if he will play sports at the collegiate level. In addition to basketball, Mielke plays baseball for the Elk River varsity baseball team, whose season begins on April 6 against Minnetonka. He is undecided where he will be attending college this fall, but his top three choices are Bemidji State University, Minnesota State University-Mankato and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. World history is his favorite school subject.
Servaty said Mielke put in a lot of work during the offseason and bought in to what Elk River did to prepare for the fall. He said that Mielke’s best skill is his ability to catch and shoot from anywhere on the court.
“He needed an opportunity and has made the most of it,” he said. “It’s a great story. He is a quiet kid by nature. As he’s found more success, we’ve pushed a bigger leadership role upon him to become more vocal, more of an emotional leader. That’s the next step in his development is coming outside that comfort zone and to helping push those around him to the next level. He’s a dream kid to have.”