Dienhart: Payne's return is good news for MSU
It’s official: Adreian Payne is returning to Michigan State for his senior year, stamping the Spartans as the Big Ten favorite and top national title contender next season. Payne struggled with the decision, waiting until the final day (April 28) to render a choice. He was projected by many to be a first-round draft choice. Payne will return to a roster that welcomes back all of its key components, save for departed senior big man Derrick Nix.
Payne’s return is welcome news for a Big Ten that has seen a big talent drain, with Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas and Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., all turning pro early.
Payne is the second Michigan State player to shun the NBA and return to East Lansing, as guard Gary Harris opted to come back after earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me to make,” Payne said in a statement.”But I’m excited to be returning to Michigan State for my senior year. I’ve had a lot of people asking what I was going to do, but I had to take my time to make the right decision. I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but one more year at MSU is the right decision for me.
In the same statement,. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, “The feedback from the NBA was somewhat varied, but most people believed Adreian would be a first-round pick. But they also said that Adreian was in a position where he could raise his draft stock consistently with a good senior season.”
Payne and Harris will lead a Michigan State squad that also welcomes back Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Matt Costello from a squad that went 27-9 overall and finished tied for second in the Big Ten with a 13-5 mark, losing to Duke in the Sweet 16. Touted recruits Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis also will join the mix.
Not only will Michigan State be the Big Ten favorite, but the Spartans also figure to rank in the preseason top five as MSU searches for its first national championship since 1999-2000—which is also the last time the Big Ten produced a national champion.
The Spartans main competition for the Big Ten title next season figures to come from Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The 6-10 power forward enjoyed a strong junior season, expanding his game with a 3-point shot. He averaged 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds, up from 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore. His junior season numbers should grow next season, as Payne will be a contender for Big Ten Player of the Year honors.
Here are his full career stats:
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