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Men’s Basketball: Elfrid Payton’s big day arrives – NBA Draft Party at Alumni Center 5:45 Thursday

Chad Washington, The Advertiser, June 26, 2014


Former UL guard Elfrid Payton (2) has his sights set on being a top 10 selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft.(Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)

Elfrid Payton has definitely moved up into the top half of the first round of tonight’s NBA Draft. Now the question is where will he end up: as a lottery pick, or going to a championship contender late in the first round?

Questions are everywhere in this draft, which many have claimed is the deepest draft in years. Even the No. 1 pick is a question mark, as the Cleveland Cavaliers have not yet said who they will pick; either Duke’s Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.

But Payton is confident that he will go in the top 10. While doing interviews with select NBA media, he told ESPN analyst Andy Katz that he will either go at No. 7 to the Los Angeles Lakers or No. 8 to the Sacramento Kings.

If Payton does go in the top 10, he will be the first UL player to be taken that high since 1980, when forward Anthony Toney was taken with the eighth pick by Philadelphia in the 1980 draft. Toney became a two-time All-Star with the 76ers and won a NBA title with them in 1983. Kevin Brooks was the last Ragin’ Cajun to be a first-round pick when he was the No. 18 pick to Denver in the 1991 draft.

However, many of the mock drafts out there has Payton going from either No. 11 to Denver to No. 21 to Oklahoma City. Other teams that might take him include Orlando, Chicago, Toronto and Miami.

So what has led to him shooting up the boards? His defensive skills and his ability to get to the basket. But what can hold him back and drop in the draft? Concerns about his shooting and his performance against top-level competition.

But Payton’s work ethnic and hard-nosed approach to basketball has really opened a lot of general managers’ eyes in last month’s draft combine and in team workouts. Payton also admits he comes into the workouts with a chip on his shoulder to prove that a player from a small-time program can be among the best players in the country.

"I think it gives me a little bit more of a toughness," Payton told Yahoo Sports in an interview last weekend. "I attack. I go at people. I’m a little different than a regular basketball player."

Payton averaged 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.1 steals this past season for UL. His quickness to getting to the basket and his size makes him NBA-ready, according to a lot of scouts.

"Some compare Payton with (Boston guard) Rajon Rondo, but Payton isn’t nearly the playmaker or creator that Rondo is," NBA on TNT reporter David Aldridge said. "There’s potential there, though."

The 6-foot-3 point guard led the Ragin’ Cajuns to new heights in his three seasons in Lafayette. He has led the Cajuns to a 23-win season last year, which included a Sun Belt Conference tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament. But he also showed a lot of leadership on the floor, which a lot of scouts noticed last season.

"The NBA scouts are obviously excited about Elfrid’s ability to handle the basketball, get to the basket and play defense," UL head coach Bob Marlin said. "But they are just as excited about his character. To them he is almost too good to be true, but that goes back to how he handles himself and how he was raised. I told the scouts that you won’t get me or anyone else around here or where he’s from to say one bad thing about Elfrid and that’s not because we don’t want to hurt his chances. He is truly that good of a person."

Cajun Draft History

First-Round Picks

1980 – Andrew Toney, Sixers (8th)

1991 – Kevin Brooks, Bucks (18th)

Other Picks

2005 – Orien Greene, Celtics (2nd round, 53 overall)

1985 – George Almones, Nets (6th, 130)

1984 – Graylin Warner, Sonics (6th, 129)

1984 – Dion Brown, Spurs (6th, 124)

1984 – Alonza Allen, Clippers (5th, 98)

1983 – Dan Gay, Bullets (4th, 80)

1982 – Alford Turner, Nuggets (4th, 84)

1981 – Kevin Figaro, Hawks (4th, 75)

1977 – Calvin Crews, Hawks (6th, 114)

1975 – Larry Fogle, Knicks (2nd, 34)

1974 – Fred Saunders, Suns (2nd, 31)

1974 – Roy Ebron, Knicks (4th, 68)

1973 – Jerry Bisbano, Suns (7th, 111)

1973 – Bo Lamar, Pistons (3rd, 44)

1972 – Will Loftin, Bullets (10th, 150)

1970 – Marvin Winkler, Bucks (3rd, 50)

1965 – Dean Church, Sixers (10th, 75)

(Note: NBA Draft was reduced to two rounds in 1989.)

Draft Point Guard Rankings

1. Dante Exum, Australia

2. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

3. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse

4. Elfrid Payton, UL

5. Shabazz Napier, UConn

(Source: USA Today)

Payton Projections

USA Today – Suns (18)

Bleacher Report – Hawks (15)

Draft Express – Nuggets (11)

Yahoo.com – Kings (8)

NBA.com – Magic (12)

CBSports.com – Bulls (16)

Athletic Network Footnote:
The Rebounders Club will be meeting at the Alumni Center on Thursday, June 26th at 5:45pm to watch the NBA draft! Members & prospective members are welcome. Cost is $15 per person and includes food & drinks. Please help spread the word to other Ragin’ Cajuns fans.
Karren Hays
Members of the Ragin’ Cajuns team, coaching staff and administration will be on hand.