I am reading about a kid from stockton st marys h.s named mark payne..........he is said to be a legit nba prospect.....6-8 and handles ball well, gets a few dunks a game, not a good shooter...supposedly one of those kids that had a late growth spurt
Quote: Toward the end of his senior year of high school, Mark Payne already had his dorm assignment set at the University of Colorado. Then-head coach Ricardo Patton wouldn't have been able to pick him out of a lineup, but Payne was set to try to join the Buffaloes as an anonymous walk-on, anyway.
Mark Payne didn't expect to play basketball in college, but he could be a future NBA player. (Wayne Tilcock / Special to FOXSports.com)
However, plans change — and that's what happened when the St. Mary's High point guard played well enough in the California state tournament to draw attention from Pacific and UC Davis from the Big West.
Payne never truly figured college basketball was in his future, certainly not as a 6-foot-3 junior who remained unable to dunk the ball and never played AAU basketball.
"The first time I dunked was going into my senior year," Payne said. "I couldn't jump."
These days Payne, now a 6-foot-7 floor leader at UC Davis with impressive athleticism, puts about two or three down each and every game and has established himself as arguably the top player in the Big West — and someone that has already drawn looks from several NBA teams.
"NBA teams have to look at him," said former NBA head coach Eric Musselman, who watched Payne play last season. "Whether you like him or not is another story."
Payne is just another example of the old adage that if you're talented enough, they'll find you. Even at UC Davis, the former Division II school located about 15 miles west of Sacramento.
Payne was a skinny 5-foot-8 as a freshman in high school and grew three inches the next year before shooting up to 6-foot-3 as a junior. His numbers were hardly eye-popping — 10 points, six assists and five rebounds — during his senior campaign, but UC Davis coach Gary Stewart became the first Division I school to offer him a scholarship.
Well, not really. UC Davis wasn't even in the Division I ranks yet when the scholarship offer was put forth.
In fact, Payne redshirted his freshman season, which was also UC Davis' final in Division II before making the move to Division I.
After a year to put on some much-needed weight, Payne wasted little time making an impact. He had more dunks (three) in his first college game than in his entire high school career.
Payne averaged 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists en route to Freshman of the Year honors and put up a triple double against Sacramento State. His play was even better last season as a sophomore — 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
There was just one problem.
Payne couldn't shoot.
Luckily for Payne, he hasn't really needed to.
Even though teams sag off him and dare him to take shots from beyond the arc, Payne still finds a way to use his length and athleticism — and his ability to move well without the ball — to get easy baskets.
"He's really athletic, can rebound and dunks on guys," Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton said.
Payne shot a ridiculous .675 from the field last season while attempting just 16 shots — and making just two — from beyond the arc.
"Last year, every time I got it, I would try and get to the rim and dunk it," he said.
However, Payne and his coach both realize that for his team to be successful and for him to play at the next level, his perimeter shot must improve.
Stewart and his staff have made wholesale changes to Payne's shot, which has been downright ugly since he broke both of his wrists back in high school — and he's also gone from 180 pounds as a freshman to 207 lbs now.
"I went back to the basics," Payne admitted.
"He was extremely receptive and took to it like no other kid I've ever seen before," Stewart said.
Five hundred shots in the morning and 500 more at night.
"We hope people back off him," Stewart laughed. "He's a lights-out shooter now, the best perimeter shooter on our team."
If that's true, Payne may be the country's best-kept secret.
Said Musselman: "I went to the gym to cover one of his games last season and came away saying not only did I see a player that should be on the NBA's radar, but one that must be on their radar."
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