June 26, 2014
BROOKLYN, New York - Adreian Payne and Gary Harris were selected in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Payne was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 15th pick, while Harris was drafted four picks later at No. 19 by the Chicago Bulls, who were selecting for the Denver Nuggets as part of an earlier trade. They become the 14th and 15th Spartans drafted to play for Coach Tom Izzo, and the 13th and 14th players selected since the 2000 NBA Draft. They also become the seventh and eighth first rounders under Izzo.
"I'm actually happy about the draft," said Izzo. "I think it's great where AP went. I think Atlanta is a perfect organization with the fact that they have a San Antonio kind of coach (Mike Budenholzer) from that system. I think that will help AP.
"You can look at Gary as maybe dropping a little bit, but there were so many trades ... and there were some other surprise picks. Denver is a team that had an interest in him in some of the mock drafts, so I think that he got to a place where they want him too ... Sometimes Gary plays better with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder so that will help.
"To get two guys in the Top 19 picks, and when I think back - Zach Randolph being a 19th pick and made 150 million and when I think about Draymond Green being a second round pick and I think he's on his way to an incredible NBA career, you learn it's not where you are picked, that's for your ego, but the rest of it determines whether you have a cup of coffee in the league or whether you have a long career. They have an opportunity now to have a long career. It's what they do with that that really matters ... I think they both landed in spots that will be beneficial for them."
Payne and Harris join Jamie Feick (1996-2nd round), Mateen Cleaves (2000-1st round), Morris Peterson (2000-1st round),Jason Richardson (2001-1st round), Zach Randolph (2001-1st round), Andre Hutson (2001-2nd round), Marcus Taylor (2002-2nd round), Erazem Lorbek (2005-2nd round), Shannon Brown (2006-1st round), Maurice Ager (2006-1st round), Paul Davis (2006-1st round), Goran Suton (2009-2nd round), and Draymond Green (2012-1st round) as NBA Draft picks under Izzo. All-time, Michigan State has had 58 players selected in the NBA Draft, including 18 first rounders.
This is the fifth time overall, and the fourth time under Izzo, that two Spartans have been selected in the in the first round. The first occurrence came in 1979 as Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Greg Kelser were drafted. The feat was repeated in 2000 (Cleaves and Peterson), 2001 (Richardson and Randolph) and 2006 (Brown and Ager).
Payne is one of nine players in MSU history with 1,200 career points (1,232) and 700 career rebounds (735), while also ranking as the school's all-time leader in blocked shots (141). A 2014 Second-Team All-Big Ten honoree, he averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds, while also earning USBWA and NABC All-District accolades as well as honorable mention Associated Press All-America honors. He was selected to the Big Ten All-Tournament and the NCAA East Regional All-Tournament teams. His postseason included a 41-point performance against Delaware in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, establishing many school records, including the most points ever by an Izzo-coached Spartan and the most point ever by a Spartan in the NCAA Tournament.
One of the most versatile big men in college basketball in 2013-14, Payne was the only player in the Big Ten to shoot 50 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range and 79 percent from the foul line, while also averaging at least one made 3-pointer per contest. In addition, he was the only Big Ten player to rank in the top seven in the conference in both scoring (7th) and rebounding (3rd). Not only did Payne's scoring average improve every year as a Spartan, jumping from 2.5 ppg as a freshman to 7.0 ppg as a sophomore to 10.5 ppg as a junior and then a large leap to 16.4 ppg as a senior, he also became a more versatile offensive talent. Through the first 87 games of his career, he was 1-of-4 from 3-point range, but over the final 51 games, he was 60-of-145 (.413).
"I was very excited and really amazed that I was able to go to the Atlanta Hawks, and that I'm able to have this opportunity to play in the league. I see myself fitting in very well. When I worked out there I felt that I did great, and I felt the coaching staff and everyone really liked the type of guy I was and liked what I had to offer.
"The last couple months were very anxious to know where I was going to be living because I've been moving all over the place and traveling workout to workout ... I'm so excited to know where I'm going and I'm going to come into Atlanta and that's going to be my new home."
Payne becomes the fifth Spartan to be selected by the Hawks franchise, dating back to 1955 when Al Ferrari was selected by the Milwaukee Hawks. Other draftees include Julius McCoy (1956 - St. Louis Hawks), Horace Walker (1960-St. Louis Hawks), and Kevin Willis in 1984. Although Steve Smith was drafted by Miami, he did spend five seasons with Atlanta.
"I talk to Steve Smith a lot," said Payne. "He's a guy that I'm close to. We talk and he gives me advice about what to do and what to continue to work on. I try to take his advice and use it the best I can."
With his colorful draft night attire, Payne paid tribute to his special friend Lacey Holsworth, who passed away from cancer following the NCAA Tournament. On the inside of his jacket, the words "Adreian & Lacey" were inscribed.
"I wanted to do something in her memory, and something that would mean something to me, something that would stick out, something that was different and something that I knew that she would really like.
It was clear that draft night is a memory that will stick with Payne. And he considers himself lucky to have shared it with some fellow Spartans. Besides Harris and Izzo, former Spartans Draymond Green and Goran Suton were in attendance.
"It was great to have a lot of Spartans there and share the moment with them. It just shows how much we care about our players, and how much our coach cares about his players."
A 2014 First-Team All-Big Ten honoree, Harris averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore. He earned USBWA and NABC All-District accolades, honorable mention Associated Press All-America honors and a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament Team and the NCAA East Regional All-Tournament Team. He was one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award after ranking sixth in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in steals overall (1.8 spg). Voted the MSU Team MVP by both the media and his teammates, Harris was also a member of the All-Big Ten Defensive Team.
"I'm looking forward to getting to Denver and getting to work," said Harris. "Going into tonight I didn't know what was going to happen so I was just waiting patiently until my name was called. I'm just going to come in there and compete, and play my hardest, and trying to do anything I can to earn minutes and help the team win.
"I feel like Coach Izzo does a great job of getting us prepared, making practice a grind and hard for us every day. He challenges us physically and mentally, and that has prepared me for the NBA."
Over the course of his two seasons, Harris appeared in 69 games, starting 67, and averaged 14.9 points per contest. He totaled 1,025 career points, becoming the 45th player in MSU history with 1,000 career points and just the third Spartan to do it in just two seasons, joining Mike Robinson (1,202 points through two seasons) and Earvin "Magic" Johnson (1,059 points).