Adreian Payne's Hard Work Has Made Him Legit NBA Prospect

Jeff PiechowskiContributor IMarch 2, 2013

Feb. 12, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans center Adreian Payne (5) drives to the basket against Michigan Wolverines forward Mitch McGary (4) during the second half at Jack Breslin Students Events Center.     Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

When Adreian Payne arrived on campus in the fall of 2010, he was described as raw but highly athletic. 

For two seasons, it was rare, but we did see that the potential to be a star was there.  But on many an occasion, Adriean Payne looked lost out on the court.  Sometimes he seemed disinterested leaving, many to wonder how much he even cared.  And also leaving many to wonder if the 6'10" kid Tom Izzo described as having freakish ability would ever pan out.

The summer of 2012 proved to be the summer of Payne.  Adreian, who suffers from a smaller than normal lung capacity, not only worked on his conditioning, but also his ball handling and his jump shot. 

During his first two seasons, many of the glimpses of greatness that were seen were on the defensive end.  A lighting quick leaper with a 7'1" wingspan, Payne led the Spartans in blocked shots over his first two seasons.   But since the beginning of conference play, Payne has developed into a force on the offensive end.

His true coming out party came in a January win at Penn State.  Payne sat out the entire first half after a fight with teammate Branden Dawson at the team hotel earlier in the day.  He responded with a career-high 20 points in that half.  And he has a new weapon in his arsenal: A long range jump shot. 

Payne is all of the sudden a threat from three-point range, and his smooth stroke at the free throw line has become one of model consistency.  All of this is has Payne drawing attention from NBA scouts.

His continued maturity both on and off the court will now be key for Michigan State down the stretch.  And it all starts Sunday in Ann Arbor in what will be a hostile environment after Payne and the Spartans embarrassed Michigan in East Lansing on February 12. 

Payne's performance will also most likely leave him with a decision at the end of the Spartans' run this year.  That decision will be whether to stick around for his senior season, or enter the NBA Draft in June.