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Men’s Basketball: Payton expresses gratitude to UL community

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, July 1, 2014


Truthfully, there wasn’t a whole lot to be said when former UL Ragin’ Cajun and current Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton held an informal press conference in the Cajundome on Monday.

There were, however, several statements to be made.

Click here for video.

It began with an appreciative Payton thanking everyone from his friends to the community to his teammates to the fans to school officials for the help they gave him in his three years of growing as a person and as an athlete at UL.

"It’s been a great experience, coming here at 17 and growing up to the person I am today," Payton said.

Now that Payton was drafted No. 10 overall in last week’s NBA Draft and appears to be the point guard of the future for the Orlando Magic, the low-key John Ehret High product left no doubt what his goals are now that his NBA career officially begins Saturday with the start of the summer league.

Payton said it in his normal matter-of-fact style, but he revealed his bold NBA goals are to end up as "one of the greatest players to ever play the game," as well as to become an NBA world champion.

Payton also discussed his close relationship with Cajun coach Bob Marlin, saying that Marlin supported him in his decision to leave a year early for the NBA.

"He (Marlin) told me whatever I did, he’d support me … whatever I did, you just have to work hard for it," Payton said.

Marlin said had he known that Payton was going to be picked No. 10 overall, he would have told him it was a no-brainer move to leave college early.

"Me and coach Marlin had a great relationship," Payton said. "He’s always pushing me to get better. Sometimes he might say some stuff that I don’t like, but I know he was doing it because he saw something in me."

While Payton’s departure will certainly have an impact on next year’s Cajun team, the point guard proclaimed a positive picture for the program.

"I think we’re (Cajuns) in a good place now," said Payton, who later promised that he wouldn’t forget where he came from and visit UL often in the future. "We’ve got a good base. I think we can continue to do great things."

Marlin ended the press conference making it very clear that the gathering, which included the current team, media and top UL school officials, was 100 percent at Payton’s request in an effort to express his gratitude to the school and community.

Magic waive Nelson

The Orlando Magic have waived veteran guard Jameer Nelson, seemingly creating more opportunity for former UL point guard Elfrid Payton.

The move, announced on Monday, ends the run of the Magic’s longest-tenured player at 10 seasons.

He could re-sign with the Magic, but he’s expected to garner free agency interest.

Nelson was entering the final year of a three-year contract, but had only $2 million of the $8 million remaining guaranteed. By waiving Nelson before July 16 the Magic are saving valued salary cap space.

He played in 651 regular season games in Orlando with 556 starts, averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 assists, and posting one All-Star season in 2009.