Every once in awhile you come upon a player who looks better in-person than on paper. What that player does on the floor, not just in physical terms, but in contributing to a winning team effort, sometimes supersedes what they put-up on a stat sheet. A player that fits that description, at least for the 2012-13 college basketball season, is Adreian Payne of Michigan State.
Recruited out of Dayton Jefferson high school in Ohio, where he was the Division IV Player of the Year in 2010, he wasn’t heavily sought-after by the better programs in Ohio, but did catch the eye of the Michigan State coaches, who saw his potential. Tall and gangly with a raw basketball IQ, Payne thrived mostly due to his height and the underwhelming competition that he faced. Three years later, the 6’10”/240 pound junior has turned-into one of the better big men in the Big Ten Conference, with visions on the next level.
Payne averages 10.1 ppg, a paltry figure for a supposed future NBA player, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He has become a more efficient scorer, taking less shots and being more accurate on the ones he does take, evidenced by his 58.1 FG%, which ranks second in the Big Ten. The biggest improvements have come from the free throw line, where he ranks fourth in the conference at 81.5%, and his expanding 3PT range, where he is now a threat, making just shy of 50% of his attempted shots.
Defensively, Payne has always possessed the physical talents; height, quickness, length (7’1” wing-span), and quick leaping ability. However, he played a very immature defensive/rebounding game as a freshman, being out of position and prone to fouling. Both of those areas have come along way, and he is now a defensive presence, ranking fourth in the Big Ten with 7.4 rpg and seventh in blocked shots (1.2 bpg).
Dedication and hard work, concepts he really embraced over the off-season has gotten him to this point in his career. Payne still suffers from chronic diminished lung capacity, which limits his time on the floor and prevents him from playing in long spurts, but Coach Tom Izzo has been able to work-around the issue and Payne has played more quality minutes.
The next level is certainly within reach, especially with his ability to knock-down the three-point shot. He projects as a solid, stretch-forward that could be a viable weapon off of an NBA bench, on both ends of the floor. Payne has another year of eligibility, which he most-assuredly thought about using prior to the current season, but as his 2013 NBA Draft stock continues to rise, the possibility exists that he could exit Spartan nation a year early.
With one week to go in the regular season, seeding for the upcoming conference tournament becomes very important, especially for the top-tier teams who want to secure a bye in the opening round. This week’s key matchups includes, Ohio State @ Indiana on March 5, Wisconsin @ Michigan State on March 7, and two final-day contests on March 10, featuring Indiana @ Michigan and Illinois @ Ohio State.
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Indiana 2. Michigan 3. Michigan State 4. Wisconsin 5. Ohio State 6. Minnesota 7. Illinois 8. Purdue 9. Iowa 10. Northwestern 11. Nebraska 12. Penn State
Deric McKamey is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball and covers the Big Ten. Thanks to michiganstate.247sports.com for the photo.