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Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | Last updated: 10:56am


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Adreian Payne drafted by Hawks, Gary Harris drafted by Nuggets in 2014 NBA draft




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From left to right, sophomore guard Denzel Valentine, sophomore guard Gary Harris and senior center Adreian Payne react to the game against Delaware on March 20, 2014, at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena during the Spartans' first game in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans won, 93-78. Betsy Agosta/ The State News



The wait for the first Spartan to have his name called was longer than some expected, but it was still a big night for the MSU basketball program. 

Former MSU players Adreian Payne and Gary Harris were drafted roughly a half hour apart, at No. 15 and No. 19 respectively, in the 2014 NBA draft.

It's the first time since 2006 two MSU players were drafted in the first round, when Shannon Brown went 25th and Maurice Ager went 28th. 

Former MSU guard Keith Appling went undrafted, and will presumably look to sign a free agent contract. MSU head coach Tom Izzo said if Apppling weren't drafted, he would become a "very good free agent."

Before walking the stage, Payne hugged Izzo and Lacey Holsworth's mom Heather, who were both present to clap him through a crowning achievement of his four-year college career.

The former MSU forward was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, becoming the highest-drafted Spartan since Jason Richardson went No. 5 to Golden State in 2001. 

Payne averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and .423 3-point shooting at MSU last season. 

Payne wore a plaid suit dedicated to his friend Lacey Holsworth, who passed away April 8 after losing her battle with cancer. 

"It's the color of the cancer that she had, leukemia, and I wear a band every day," Payne said in a statement released by the Atlanta Hawks. "So that's why I wore it and that's where I get my inspiration from." 

Though some mock drafts pegged Payne as a first round pick last year, Payne decided to return to MSU for his senior season to finish his degree, a decision Izzo said paid off. 

"I watch AP grow every day and I'm so glad I could go through this with him. He's ten times more mature than he was last year," Izzo said in a conference call during the draft.

In a conference call, Payne said he's excited to begin his NBA career and revealed he has become close with former Spartan guard and Atlanta Hawks star Steve Smitih.

"All the guys really couldn't wait to see where they would be able to call home," Payne said. "I'm just so excited I'll know where I'm going."

Though he slid further than many would have guessed, Harris was eventually taken by the Denver Nuggets at No. 19 after the Nuggets swapped picks with the Chicago Bulls earlier in the night. 

Despite going later than draft pundits expected, Izzo said being drafted to a team that had interest in him could be a good thing. Harris said the Nuggets worked him out prior to the draft. 

"Gary was fine. I think sometimes he plays better with a little chip on his shoulder, so that will help," Izzo said.

Harris averaged 14.9 points, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals during two years at MSU.

ESPN analyst Bill Simmons called Harris the "steal of the draft" and compared him to former Florida and current Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. 

"I'm ready to get there and work and definitely earn a position there," Harris said in a statement released by the Denver Nuggets. "Nothing's going to be given to me. I feel like it would be a great spot."


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