Too old? NBA prospects Payne, Early say not so fast

Too old? NBA prospects Payne, Early say not so fast
June 4, 2014, 2:15 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — Only leading up to the NBA draft can a 23-year-old be considered an old man.

Such is the life these days for NBA prospects who attended college for more than a couple years, players like former Michigan State forward Adreian Payne who was among the six players to work out for the Celtics on Wednesday.

Payne, a three-year starter for the Spartans, was among the top players in the country when coming out of high school in 2010.

Many of those guys are already in the NBA, including former No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving as well as a pair of current Celtics, Jared Sullinger and Phil Pressey.

Payne understands he's among a select number of college seniors expected to be drafted in the first round of the June 26 NBA draft.

To him, being a little older isn't as big a drawback or concern as some might make it out to be.

"I'm a little older than a couple of guys," admitted Payne. When it comes to getting on the court, age doesn't matter. You're out there to produce for your team and show what you can do. When it's time to get on the court, age isn't a factor."

Some of Payne's best moments have come in the biggest games of the season, something that's only enhanced over time and with experience.

In the NCAA tournament in March, Payne scored 41 points in Michigan State's first-round win over Delaware, the most points ever scored by a Spartan player in an NCAA tournament matchup.

His 1,232 points and 735 career rebounds at Michigan State made him one of just nine players in school history to score at least 1,200 points and grab at least 700 rebounds. In addition, his 141 blocked shots is a school record. And as a senior, he shot 42.3 percent on 3s.

When you look at Payne's body of work, it's clear that he has the kind of versatility that can impact a game at either end of the floor.

And yet when it comes to questions he's asked, Payne says there's one that seems to come up more often than others.

"It's 'I'm too old' and 'I don't have that much upside,'" Payne said. "When it's time to get out on the court, we'll see who got the upside and who don't."

It's clear that Payne intends on using the concerns and questions about his age, as added motivation.

The same can be said for Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early, who worked out for the Celtics on Tuesday.

Like Payne, Early is another college senior expected to be drafted in the first round.

"I'm very mature," said Early, 23. "My age helps me. I've been through certain things ... so many things these guys have to go through, I've been through. It's just a learning curve that I'll take advantage of on my end. So anyone can say anything they want about me being a couple years older, but it doesn't really matter."

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