LAFAYETTE — University of Louisiana at Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton wasn’t surprised that egos and attitudes were put aside as a USA U-19 basketball team packed with athletic ability competed for a FIBA world championship earlier this summer in the Czech Republic.
“It wasn’t hard for everyone to play together, because all the players on the team were there for a common goal, which was to win the gold (medal),” Payton said Tuesday during a brief news conference.
The USA Team and Payton certainly showed their dominance during the two weeks of international games.
Payton, a junior point guard from Gretna, started most of the games on a team that finished 9-0 during the tournament held in Prague.
In the 82-68 championship contest victory over Serbia, Payton scored nine points. He also had six assists and five steals as the USA team used a 42-30 run in the second half to seal the win.
ULL coach Bob Marlin said Payton was selected for the USA team following several days of scrimmages and tryouts at the USA Athletic Training facility in Colorado Springs.
Marlin said 26 of the nation’s best high school and college players in Payton’s age group competed for 12 spots on the USA team, coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan.
Payton said he wasn’t surprised to be a picked on a USA squad that include Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart along with Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell.
“Everyone there was good. You hear about the politics and all in the selections, but I didn’t feel there was any of that,” he said. “I was pretty confident. I felt if I did some things that I knew I could do and try to focus on those, I could make the team.”
The USA team recorded lopsided wins in nearly all its games.
Payton, who played at John Ehret High School, said Donovan “simplified things” for a team that was put together in a short time. “I thought our ability and our pressuring the ball were the big things for us.”
Marlin said he contacted Donovan to see if he could get Payton a try out.
“This spring I talked to a number of people running camps so I could help (Payton) improve his game. That didn’t work out, so on my way to the office one day after that, I realized Elfrid is 19, so it was then that I called (Donovan),” Marlin said. “I knew that it was kind of late in the selection process, but during the conversation (with Donovan) he told me that he was still looking for another point guard.”
Donovan was impressed with Payton’s defensive skills.
Playing by international rules caused some on-the-court adjustments, said Payton.
“One difference was you could knock the ball off the rim and there wouldn’t be goal-tending. A lot of our guys were getting into foul trouble because they wouldn’t allow hand-checking out on the perimeter. As soon as you did that, they would call it,” Payton said.