Michigan State junior Adreian Payne enters into the Breslin Center meeting rooms with a big smile on his face, ready to address the media on his decision of whether or not he would be returning to Michigan State for his senior year. But by simply just looking at him, it didn’t really look like he was about to announce the biggest decision of his life.
After a little over a month of agonizing over what he was going to do: return for his senior season at Michigan State or leave early for the NBA draft, Payne finally let it be known the decision he had come to.
And on Sunday night, after Michigan State gathered a short press conference with both Payne and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, Payne announced his decision to put the NBA on hold and return for his senior season at Michigan State.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me to make, but I’m excited to be returning to Michigan State for my senior year,” Payne said. “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.”
The 6’10” power forward from Dayton, Ohio returns after a breakout junior season in which he averaged 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds, helping the Spartans achieve a 27-9 record and advance into the Sweet Sixteen where they eventually fell to Duke.
“This was clearly a very difficult decision for Adreian,” Izzo said. “I encouraged him to take all the time he needed, and provided whatever assistance he wanted. But in the end, it was Adreian’s decision to make. I’m proud of him for listening to those people who truly had his best interests at heart. His high school coaches Art Winston and Mark Parker have been key people in his life and very helpful in the process.”
For Payne, there were several factors that influenced his decision on returning to Michigan State for his senior year, everything from Final Fours to improving his draft stock for next year, but it ultimately came down to a promise he made to his grandmother several years ago.
Payne’s grandmother, Mary Lewis, the woman who raised him for much of his childhood, passed away in 2011, and so Payne’s decision on whether or not to leave for the NBA was really the first big decision he had to make in his life without the advice of his grandmother.
“The main factor, I wanted to graduate,” Payne said. “I promised that to my grandmother. I promised that to her and that’s something that I want to do.”
And with his decision to return, Payne will be able to get the degree, with only one class left to take after fall semester, which is incredible considering what he has gone through to get to this point.
With that said, Payne returning next year alongside fellow teammate Gary Harris, who announced his decision to return to East Lansing last week, has a lot of people around the Michigan State basketball program fired up as it looks like they will field one of the top 5 teams in the country next year.
In addition, Payne, and fellow future senior Keith Appling will be looking to get Michigan State back to the Final Four next year and will need to in order to continue head coach Tom Izzo’s streak of all four year players under his program making it to a Final Four.
“”I’m very excited for next year,” Payne said. “We have a chance to have a great season with championship goals. Coach Izzo and I had several discussions about an expanded role for me that will help the team become better. Coach Izzo also talked about some of the individual goals he has for me, and I’m going to keep working hard to get better. I want to make my final season a special one.”
As the press conference comes to a close, Adreian Payne is all smiles, laughing up on the podium and cracking jokes. When News Media Director Matt Larson alerts the media that there’s time for one more question, Payne answers it jokingly, responding to it with a short and simple “No,” as if indicating he’s done answering questions, followed by more laughs.
When the press conference finally has come to an end, Payne walks out of the Breslin, smile still spread across his face, it’s clear he’s more than satisfied with the decision he’s made.
“I know Grandma Mary is proud of me,” Payne said. “She wanted me to get my degree and I made a promise to her that I would do that. I know she’s in Heaven right now looking down on me and smiling.”
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner