Payne going from Yellow Jacket to a Knight
Lee County senior Jason Payne fulfilled a lifelong, or at least almost lifelong, dream with a little bit of paperwork Thursday afternoon in the high school’s office.
Payne committed to a basketball scholarship offer from St. Andrews University in Laurinburg. He made it official alongside Yellow Jacket head coach Reggie Peace and his coaching staff, all of his Yellow Jacket teammates, his mother Loria King and St. Andrews head coach Andrew Brown.
“It means a lot to me,” Payne said. “I’ve been dreaming of this, of playing college basketball, since I was 5 years old. This is a great opportunity for me to go to school and play. I’m really blessed.”
Payne, a 6-foot-4 guard/small forward for the Jackets, was a starter and key contributor as Lee County improved from five wins overall in 2011-12 to fourth place in the Tri-Nine and reaching the NCHSAA State Tournament this season, in Lee County’s last season in the conference and class 4A.
Payne helped the Jackets with points, especially beyond the three-point arc, rebounds and plenty of other stats. His new coach in Laurinburg saw him play five times this past season and already sees more than just numbers when it comes to Payne and what he can add to a squad.
“It’s the intangibles in Jason’s game. He does so many things that are not in the stat sheet. Defensively, hustling, always having a very positive, good attitude on the court, which is the most important thing of all,” Brown said.
Brown also praised Payne for proving himself as a true student-athlete.
“It’s always a factor. To play basketball in college, academics has to come first,” Brown said. “It’s important with all our student-athletes that they have a great rapport with the coaches and the faculty at the school.”
Brown, entering his second year coaching the Knights, who went 2-25 last season, sees an athlete who can help St. Andrews in multiple ways.
“Jason’s a perimeter player with size. He’s 6-4, but he has about a 6-6 wingspan,” Brown said.
“He’s going to help us a great deal defensively, which we struggled with. I think he’s an underrated athlete in this region and he’s a high caliber student-athlete.”
“Coach Brown has seen a lot in me,” Payne said. “He’s seen things in me and my game that I didn’t even see and he’s given me tremendous confidence.”
Payne is planning on majoring in Business Administration. Working hard on and off the court is a trait Payne gives his Yellow Jacket coaches credit for.
“They’ve taught me a lot,” he said, “teaching me the game and how to get better every day, on the court and as a person, and it just means a lot.”