Michigan State's Adreian Payne goes 15th to the Hawks in NBA Draft

BROOKLYN, NY (Detroit Free Press) -- The official start of a special day for Michigan State basketball was probably right around the time Draymond Green posted an Instagram video from the plane he and Tom Izzo were taking to the NBA draft – Izzo talking on his flip phone, of course.

The images from Barclays Center in Brooklyn started streaming in a few hours later. Adreian Payne in his bowtie and lavender purple suit, the words "Adreian & Lacey" written on the inside of the jacket. Gary Harris and his family. Izzo, Harris, Payne, Green and another former Spartan, Goran Suton, posing for a shot.

The flashbulb moments came at 9:08 p.m. for Payne and – surprisingly – not until 9:36 for Harris.

The Atlanta Hawks picked Payne with the 15th overall selection of the first round and the Denver Nuggets chose Harris at No. 19 – first-round picks for the Spartans for the first time since Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager went 25th and 28th, respectively, in 2006. The Chicago Bulls actually made the Harris selection, but they were picking for the Nuggets after a draft-night trade.

Payne, a 6-10 forward who averaged 16.4 points a game as a senior in 2013-14, is the Spartans' highest draft pick since Jason Richardson went No. 5 overall to Golden State in 2001.

He was joined at the draft by Matt and Heather Holsworth, the parents of his close friend Lacey. She died April 9 after battling cancer for more than two years.

Harris, a shooting guard who led MSU with 16.7 points, went lower than many projected – several mock drafts had him going in the top 10 or close to it – and that may have something to do with the fact that he measured just 6-2 ½ at the NBA combine in Chicago.

ESPN's Bill Simmons called the Harris pick "the steal of the draft."

Payne was expected by many to go in the 20s, but the Hawks, one of the teams that worked him out, grabbed him when they had the chance.

"I like that pick … classic stretch four," Simmons said of Payne.

Asked after he was chosen about the impact of Izzo, Payne said: "He did a great job with me. Just coming out, making sure I'm staying in the gym and making me a better person all around."

MSU went into the draft with a chance to match its record of three players drafted, set in 2001 when Zach Randolph and Andre Hutson joined Richardson, then matched in 2006 when Paul Davis followed Brown and Ager in the second round.

Point guard Keith Appling was a second-round hopeful after a senior season that saw him average 11.2 points and 4.5 assists but decline dramatically late in the season thanks to a right wrist injury. Appling told the Lansing State Journal he was diagnosed by a hand specialist after the season with a chipped bone at the base of the palm of his right hand.

Izzo said some NBA personnel people told him they had Appling pegged as a possible first-round pick midway through the season, before the wrist injury was sustained and then aggravated.

Harris and Payne, meanwhile, were considered possible first-rounders a year ago, but both returned for a season that saw MSU reach the Elite Eight but come up short of its national title hopes.

Payne and Harris both worked out before the draft for Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and Phoenix. Harris also worked out for Denver, Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte, while Payne did so for Utah, Minnesota, Chicago and Toronto.

Payne told the Free Press this week that he is "90%" healthy while trying to get over effects of mononucleosis that had some effect on his senior season. Both players entered the draft admittedly unsure of how things would unfold, considering all the swirling misinformation and trade rumors.

Both just knew they were about to see their dreams realized, at some point.


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