In just a few weeks, 60 players lives will change forever as they hear their name called in the NBA draft. For many of them if not all, the NBA seemed unfathomable, improbable, well impossible but yet some how, they worked hard and more importantly had the talent level to make it to the epitome of basketball in the country. Do you know how hard it is for a player to make it to the NBA? Let me give you an idea of how hard it is, there are 15 players per team, 30 teams in the league which means there are 450 players only in NBA but you have a million players who all think they are going to get there but one player locally though has a chance to be drafted in the and become the first Memphis born player to be drafted in the lottery in 25 years. Cameron Payne, a 6’2 point guard who prepped at Lausanne Collegiate School before becoming one of the best point guards in college basketball at Murray State from the jump as a freshman averaging 16ppg and 5 assist and increasing that number this year to 20 and 6 as sophomore. He has a chance to become the highest drafted player born here as I said , key word being “born” since well that guy, “1 Cent” (Penny Hardaway) in the top 14 picks. People may say well What about Lorenzen Wright? Well yes, Lorenzen played high school ball in Memphis at Booker T Washington and was drafted in the 1996 draft at number 7 however Lorenzen wasn’t born and raised here, he was from Lafayette County or Oxford Mississippi and moved here for his senior year.
Sure there have been other guys from the program to be drafted high like Memphian, Shawne Williams who went 17th overall in 2006, Elliot Williams was selected number 22 by the Portland Trailblazers and going back to 1997, Cedric Henderson (East) went 45th overall to Cleveland but none have been higher Penny in the last 20- 25 years but Payne could change that June 25th as a possible lottery pick where he projected right now by nbadraft.net
How did this happen though? Cameron Payne wasn’t a hot commodity coming out of Memphis right? Cameron wasn’t even considered the best guard coming out to the city that year in Memphis but now, he’s a lottery pick seen as high as pick 13? He had great prep numbers averaging 20 points and 10 assist, even winning the state at Lausanne his senior year and leading the way for his team also winning Mr. Basketball in his final year. For those who don’t remember Payne young, he was at the age of 11, 12, the best guard in Memphis but as years progress, guys got older and while still really good, other guys became bigger names including Nick King, Jajuan Johnson and Johnathan “J3″ Williams.
Looking at different sports groups on social media, tweets and other message boards across the city, the narrative has been, how did Memphis and Josh Pastner miss out on Cameron Payne? Man, see this is what I’m talking about, Josh can’t coach, he can’t evaluate talent, why wasn’t Payne a Tiger? Well, let me ask this question? Why wasn’t Payne a Tennessee Volunteer, a Ole Miss Rebel, Mississippi State Bull Dog or Vanderbilt Commodore? Pastner wasn’t the only person who missed on Payne and what about all the recruiting services who didn’t even have Payne as a 2 star let alone a 4 or 5 star? A lot of people locally said that maybe his success on the high school level was because he played private school and that he couldn’t be that good because of the competition level at Lausanne right? Cameron played in the Nike EYBL with Bluff City Legends(Team Penny), he played some on the Adidas circuit with the Memphis Magic, so I mean there was chance after chance to be seen by colleges right? According to Rivals, Murray State was the biggest offer that he had. ESPN had him with a rating of 73 and said he was the 10th best point guard in the state of TN and overall the 57th best player in the region. This was according to the World Wide Leader in Sports , ESPN, not WREG but ESPN. They have writers for days for high school basketball as it becomes big business once young players enter 9th grade where they start to rank them. 247 sports had him as the 291 best player in the country, we talking about a lottery pick, 291? Did people just really overlook Payne? After all, some locally did it as well downplaying his success due to whatever reason they could think of . There have been several players over the years who could be the “out of no where type” stories, like NBA hall of famer Scottie Pippen who was the team manager at Central Arkansas and didn’t play much high school basketball or Avery Johnson, a champion with the Spurs after having success in high school but only being recruited by junior colleges going on to a 16 career in the NBA. There are examples and examples but when it touches the Memphis area so close with Payne, it kind of intrigues people as to why Payne wasn’t highly recruited especially by the hometown team. Am I saying Payne will be a hall of famer or have a 16 year career? No, however, it makes you wonder, how did so many people miss?
You mean to tell me that everyone but Murray State was right about Payne? According to his recruitment, many were wrong including well Josh but again, everyone else was too. Was it that Murray State’s staff was just that much smarter than everyone else? You could see the tools, the length, the passing and scoring ability, make other players better around him, the creativity he possessed as a play-maker but no one else but the Racers saw this? This isn’t the first time though that Murray has pulled one out the hat, former Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan wasn’t a big national guy coming out of high school but now he is a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after being drafted by the Houston Rockets as the 34 pick of the 2013 NBA draft. How is it that everyone missed on Payne? We are talking about a lottery pick possibly here?
Is it possible that Payne went to the right situation, that best fit him and excelled so much so that he is in the position that he is in now? I see not only locally but around the country where players pick schools that may not necessarily fit them as players but are “big” time schools, that play on TV all the time so they assume that’s the best opportunity to shine and be a player who could become a NBA draftee when more times than not, it doesn’t always work out that way due to a lot of factors but never the less, it doesn’t work out. Word to the wise young players, when it comes time to make a decision, you better think long and hard, why is this the best school for me, academically, athletically? Does the style of play fit who I am as a player? These are things you must consider, when picking colleges.
Why is it so hard to see by some fans of our local program here that Payne was missed on? Is it such an indictment on Coach Pastner because if that is the case, wouldn’t it also have to be an indictment on other local programs around region and the country right? Was it a miss? Perhaps it was but the Tigers are not the only ones who didn’t take their bats off their shoulders and swing.