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Men’s Basketball: Elfrid Payton drafted by Sixers, traded to Magic

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, June 27, 2014

It wasn’t that the news was totally shocking.

But just as former UL point guard Elfrid Payton was answering questions about playing the same position as his childhood idol Allen Iverson or how he and Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams were going to co-exist after the Philadelphia 76ers selected him as the No. 10 overall selection in Thursday’s 2014 NBA Draft, the Cajuns’ latest departing superstar guard had to think quickly on his feet.

Payton had been traded to the Orlando Magic.

In an instant, Carter-Williams could breathe again, all those trying to figure out exactly how that logjam at point guard in Philadelphia was going to work suddenly got a reprieve and the historical comparison of a second Ragin’ Cajun guard heading to the 76ers after two-time All-Star and world champion Andrew Toney was the No. 8 overall pick by Philly back in the 1980 NBA Draft quickly ceased.

Like each of those parties, Payton also had to reverse his field as the questions shifted.

Before the news came down, he was gazing about following in the footsteps of Iverson.

"That’s great," Payton said. "I can’t even explain. (Iverson) is my favorite player. It’s amazing."

Never one to complain, Payton was already trying to sort out the initially-confusing glut of point guards in Philly, along with Carter-Williams.

"I think the game has kind of changed to just putting the best players out there on the floor," Payton said. "I feel like I can play multiple positions. I’m looking forward to it."

Just moments before, a clearly-shaken Carter-Williams was interviewed on the draft floor by ESPN.

"I’m not really sure if I’m going to be moved or not," Carter-Williams said during an ESPN interview shortly after the 76ers picked Payton. "I’m sure (Sixers general manager) Sam Hinkie and Coach (Brett Brown) have a plan. I’m sure whatever is best for me is going to work out."

Moments later, when told of a report that he’d been traded to Orlando in his post-selection press conference, the point guard again didn’t miss a beat in the awkward situation.

"I don’t know, I guess that’d be nice too," Payton said. "Anything is a blessing, man. It wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter to me."

On this night, Payton was simply too ecstatic to be too concerned over details.

The 20-year-old had gone from a young, somewhat-overlooked high school player out of John Ehret High in Gretna to a used-to-be-overlooked, mid-major college basketball point guard to a Sun Belt Conference champion to the No. 10 overall NBA selection in three incredible years.

"I’m excited," he said. "I’m blessed for this opportunity."

ESPN insider Andy Katz explained during the TV broadcast after the trade was announced that the Magic spent extra time in Lafayette recently during an exhaustive examination of Payton, which offered viewers a much clearer picture of what had just transpired.

Payton’s list of credentials grew to almost too long to detail during his junior season with the Cajuns.

He’s a two-time, first-team All-Sun Belt selection, he was the Louisiana Player of the Year, he finished his career as UL’s all-time leader in steals with 197 and fifth in assists with 486 and Payton won a gold medal for the USA’s 2013 FIBA World Championship U19 team.

Perhaps the most impressive feat, though, was being honored as the Lefty Driesell Award winner as the Defensive Player of the Year nationally, as well as being placed on the Lou Henson All-America team as one of the top mid-major players in the nation.

"I learned that going to a smaller school means nothing at this point," Payton said. "We are all no longer in college and we are all on an even playing field. I realized this when I was 19 years old in the summer trials. There were a lot of great players at the trials. I always felt that I could play with them."

Payton averaged 19.2 points, 5.9 assists and six rebounds a game as a junior.

"I think my defense is what will get me on the court," Payton said. "All coaches should love defense because that’s how you win championships. I think I can just bring my defense and my defensive ability. I know guys probably aren’t going to listen to me because I’m a rookie, so I’ll just try to lead by example, things like that."

Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports contributed to this report