Adreian Paynes don't grow on trees. They resemble them, but they're not nearly as plentiful.
From 2010-11 to 2013-14, the long-limbed, 6'9" 240-pounder developed into an era-great and fan favorite while helping the Spartans win a pair of Big Ten regular-season and conference-tournament titles. With any luck, coach Tom Izzo will find another dynamic big man; he came close with Cliff Alexander, a 2014 blue chip who said that he could see himself being the next AP in East Lansing.
But as it turned out, that was all a mere daydream. Alexander chose Kansas, and Michigan State followers were left with nothing but "what-ifs" and "could-have-beens" in regards to the likely one-and-done from Chicago.
Izzo hasn't been very successful in the Windy City of late. Missing out on a player who could very well be similar to Payne, if not better—and in one of the country's hotbeds—probably wasn't a joyous experience for the veteran coach.
However, this story doesn't end on a sour note.
No, Izzo looked closer to home and found another versatile and lanky front-court presence with tremendous potential: Muskegon's Deyonta Davis, the No. 5-ranked center of 2015, per 247Sports.
At 6'8" and 205 pounds, the 4-star prospect isn't quite in Payne's size bracket. But he'll probably get close—and there are hints of AP scattered in his developing arsenal. Like the No. 15 selection of the 2014 NBA draft, Davis is smooth and agile at the rim and along the baseline.
As the accompanying video shows, Davis is long and athletic. Those are handy attributes to have, especially when viewing him through the Payne-comparison lens.
During an AAU tournament in late April, the Muskegon senior-to-be dazzled spectators in Sacramento by leading the Spiece Indy Heat to a 4-0 record. In fact, the degree to which he stood out prompted CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello to include the top-ranked prospect in the Great Lakes on his takeaways list from that weekend's action:
Heading into the weekend, the 6-foot-8 Davis was ranked outside the top 100 in the 247Sports Composite. He plays at a high school in western Michigan, and despite being committed to Michigan State, not many people had watched him against other high-level players. Well, he's going to move into everyone's top 100 – the only question is how high will he go? One college coach watching him says he should be a top 10 prospect, while another said he's undoubtedly a top 50 prospect. Davis can do everything offensively, knocking down perimeter shots and finishing at the rim, while running the floor like a gazelle.
Did you see that? Borzello wrote "like a gazelle," a line that's been used umpteen times when referencing Payne, who actually runs more like a deer...but there's no need to get picky, now is there?
Future 150 sees good things in large amounts for Davis, who grades as a 97 on the scouting services' scale and falls at No. 26 overall (No. 24 overall, per 247).
Like Payne, and several, several others, Davis is viewed as a very good player who, under the right circumstances, could be great. Not just "start, contribute and get some headlines" great, but potentially one of Izzo's "most talked about" great.
Sure, that's a tall order for a kid who's yet to play college ball. But it's not too far-fetched when looking down the road a bit: Davis, especially at the 33- and 43-second marks in the video, moves a lot like Payne. Due to body type (and those long, skinny arms and legs), he even resembles Payne.
On the low end, Davis figures to be a solid starter. On the high end, well, he'll be a certified star. Of course, it's wise to approach comparisons with caution. Not every tall, skinny kid will be the next Payne. As mentioned above, Paynes don't just pop up everywhere. Coaches have to carefully look for them.
With that being said, Davis, like Payne—who averaged about 13 points and seven boards during his final two years at MSU—should develop into his natural position of power forward. In all likelihood, refining skills and gaining weight are the top two priorities for Davis, who could prove to be one of the better Izzo-era finds.
According to Brian Calloway of the Lansing State Journal, the Spartans coaching staff has discussed the Payne scenario with Davis.
“They said I’m going to be the next Adreian Payne,” Davis said in December 2013, per Calloway. “When I watch [the Spartans] play, I picture me being him.”
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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