In his four seasons at Michigan State, Adreian Payne became one of the focal points because of his versatility and ability to contribute on both ends of the court.
With a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Payne was a menace on defense and was tough to defend because of his blend of jump-shooting (42 percent on 3-pointers) and inside play.
Those same attributes made Payne a target for the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Payne 15th in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft. Hawks president and general manager Danny Ferry introduced Payne at a news conference in Atlanta on Friday afternoon, citing his versatile skills.
“Adreian brings a skill set of shooting the basketball, running the court and blocking shots that we hope to continue to help him build and grow as a player,” Ferry said.
For Payne, it’s a new chapter of his life after leading the Spartans to four NCAA Tournament appearances during his career. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds, helping the Spartans reach the Elite Eight as a senior.
Payne improved each season of his career at MSU, flourishing in his last two years but battling injuries last season.
“As a freshman going to Michigan State, it was a learning experience. A lot of people don’t know I starting playing at a late age so I just had to start learning things as I went,” Payne said Friday. “The main thing was I had to learn as much as I could in a short amount of time and continue to work hard because I wasn’t always the best person on the court.”
Payne gets a chance to contribute in a Hawks frontcourt that included Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Mike Scott. Horford had season-ending surgery in December, which left a void at the forward position, where Payne may be able to help.
“It’s a blessing. I’m grateful to be able to fall in this opportunity to be able to play here,” Payne said. “I’m very excited to be able to get out here and hopefully be able to make another run in the playoffs.”
Payne, a 6-foot-10 forward, worked out for the Hawks, so he had an idea that he could be taken midway through the first round. He’ll likely need to add weight to be an effective NBA big man, but his other attributes will be an asset in Atlanta.
“My style is that I’m very versatile and guard different positions and score a different type of ways,” he said. “They get up and down and share the ball, they’re tough and very competitive, so I think I’ll fit in very well.”