All this week and leading up to MSU’s season opener on Nov. 8 against McNeese State, I’ll break down every scholarship player on the Spartans’ roster. These should serve as your primer for the remaining exhibition game Monday against Division II opponent Indiana (Pa.).
Next up on the numerical list is No. 5 Adreian Payne, a preseason All-Big Ten player who bypassed the NBA draft for a chance to return to MSU and get to a Final Four.
PLAYER: Adreian Payne
POSITION: Power forward/center
HOMETOWN/HIGH SCHOOL: Dayton, Ohio/Jefferson HS
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-10, 245
2012-13 TOTALS: 36 games (24 starts), 10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 25.6 mpg, 54.6 pct. FG, 38.1 pct 3-pointers, 84.8 pct. FT
STRENGTH: Stretching defenses on offense
ROLE: Vital, veteran presence in middle on defense and offense
STAYING PUT: Talent had never been an issue for Payne, but the mental wherewithal to consistently maximize that ability was. Sometime around the start of Big Ten season, though, a switch flipped. He averaged 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds in conference play, becoming a viable 3-point shooting threat in the process.
That emotional development and newfound ability to stretch defenses put NBA scouts onto the big man. After talking it over with coach Tom Izzo and his high school coaches, Payne decided to return to MSU and chase after a national title.
The early returns are positive. Blue Ribbon Magazine made Payne a preseason All-American, and Lindy’s listed him as the nation’s top center after being a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season.
“I think there’s a lot of room to grow, that’s why it was a good decision,” Izzo said. “I think physically, Adreian Payne was a first-round pick last year. I think the development can become much more. And as most NBA people told me, to have a career in the league and not a cup of coffee, I think he had to get mentally stronger.”
RUSSIAN ROULETTE: Payne did hit a blip over the summer, playing for Michigan coach John Beilein on USA Basketball’s team that finished ninth at the World University Games in Russia.
The MSU big man was plagued by foul trouble the entire tournament, averaged just 10.6 minutes and 5.1 points, and couldn’t develop the same rhythm with which he’d ended his season for the Spartans. Izzo doesn’t think that will hurt Payne’s progress. While his coach feels the trip wasn’t a great experience, he thinks it could provide a lasting lesson for Payne.
“He was in foul trouble every game. Some of that was disappointing because I felt that he didn’t adjust to the officiating,” Izzo said. “But some of it, too, he’d get one foul and – everybody has theories – when he’d come out, he just didn’t get back into it.
“But it’s not going to hurt him, because he had to learn how to deal with adversity. I think he played for good coaches over there, and I think it was a good learning experience for him.”
MOVING AROUND: Payne’s physical development and shooting touch a year ago allowed for Izzo to play him at power forward alongside center Derrick Nix for a bigger lineup than the coach has had with the Spartans. Izzo said Payne’s continued improvement in other areas could permit Izzo to use him some at small forward this season.
“I think he’s getting way better with his ball-handling. He’s a guy I might use on ball screens as a dribbler,” Izzo said. “It’s gonna be interesting to see what we can do, but I’m kind of excited about it. And I think he’s excited about it.”
PREVIOUS PLAYER PROFILES
Quick hits from Tom Izzo on the Spartans.