After a period of going back and forth on his decision to declare for the draft, junior center Adreian Payne ultimately decided to fulfill a promise he made to his late grandmother Mary Lewis — to finish his degree at MSU.
“The main factor is I want to graduate,” Payne said. “I promised that to my grandmother, and that’s the main thing. I promised that to her, and that’s something I’m going to do.”
With hours remaining to declare himself eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft, Payne held a press conference Sunday night to announce he is returning to MSU for his senior season.
Yahoo! Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Payne was staying at MSU on his Twitter account Sunday afternoon, citing an anonymous source.
After a breakout junior campaign in which he averaged 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and displayed improved skills and shooting, he was projected by some draft analysts to be a late-first or second-round selection.
Payne said the knowledge of the projection, in addition to his grandmother’s wish and the opportunity to compete for a national championship next season, swayed him to return.
“I used that to weigh things coming back, and what I was going to accomplish with my team here at Michigan State,” he said. “We have a great team, and with everybody coming back, Gary and I, we have a chance to get to the Final Four and win a national championship.”
MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo said that some players continue to get better before being drafted, and some players level off. Payne is in the former category.
“I think he’s going to be a guy that we can go to a lot (next year),” Izzo said. “You saw his confidence grow, and I’m still mesmerized by the mid-season turnaround of this conditioning. That goes with confidence. We all know he struggled to play a lot of minutes, and we all know that from midway on, he seemed to find a different gear.”
The decision of Payne and freshman guard Gary Harris to return to East Lansing should likely vault the Spartans into the preseason top-5, according to many college basketball analysts.
MSU only loses senior center Derrick Nix for the 2013-14 season with Payne’s decision to shun the NBA, as Harris did on April 18.
Izzo said he could relate to Payne’s agonizing decision. During the summer of 2010, Izzo toyed with the notion of coaching NBA star LeBron James in Cleveland before ultimately deciding to stay in East Lansing.
Once he rejected Cleveland’s offer, Izzo said his passion for coaching MSU’s squad became even stronger.
“The good part about agonizing is that because I had the chance to explore something, I came back with even more passion,” Izzo said. “We went to a Final Four that year. I’m expecting the same (next season). I’m demanding the same.”
Izzo said that next year, when Payne declares for the draft, he’ll have a “hell of a resume” to present to potential NBA teams.
“He’s going to be more prepared physically, mentally, and let’s hope that we can get this team and go somewhere special next year,” Izzo said. “When he and Gary Harris were sitting there in Atlanta, and Gary told him we have to get there, I think that’s part of the spark.”
Now that his decision has been made, Payne said he believes his grandmother would be proud.
“I never talked about leaving early to her,” he said. “That never crossed my mind. You wouldn’t even wanna know. She would support me and would definitely be happy and proud of me. She would definitely want me to graduate.”
Staff writer Stephen Brooks contributed to this report.