Former Cajun Payton likes what he sees in Orlando
LAFAYETTE — Maybe one day Elfrid Payton will get to Disney World.
But for now, whatever he does in Orlando, Florida, will pertain to basketball.
Payton, the former Louisiana-Lafayette point guard who was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 10th pick of Thursday night’s NBA draft, then quickly traded to the Orlando Magic, was back in Lafayette on Monday to discuss his pro career.
His new team, Payton said, seems committed to winning, so any trips to Disney World will have to wait.
“I haven’t been there yet, but I guess I will get (to go) one day,” he said at a news conference attended by his former Ragin’ Cajuns teammates, the basketball coaching staff and university President Joseph Savoie.
Since the draft, Payton has been through a gantlet of news conferences, team meetings and interviews. He said he reports to the Magic on Tuesday and after that, he’ll be off to a series of summer league games in Orlando.
So far, the Magic has made a favorable impression, the John Ehret High product said.
“Coach (Jacque) Vaughn knows where he wants the team to go, and it seems like he has the guys tuned in to defense and he wants to try to turn it around,” Payton said. “I think (Orlando) also has a great front office and a great general manager. I know we’ve had a great time off the court.”
His short-term NBA goal is establishing himself as a starter — which got a boost Monday when the Magic waived veteran point guard Jameer Nelson — but Payton also has a long-range vision that, at this point, might seem a bit lofty.
“When it’s all said and done, I would like to be known as one of the greatest to ever play and a Hall of Famer,” he said. “Of course, I want to win championships.”
Payton, who last summer was the starting point guard for an undefeated Team USA Under-19 squad coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan, said the impression he made on NBA scouts began to grow once he began workouts for them.
“I think it started with my interviews, and then the teams got to know about me a lot more when they saw me in person. I think that’s what did it for me,” he said.
Payton declared for the NBA draft April 21, forgoing his senior season. It came with the full support of coach Bob Marlin.
“Me and coach Marlin have a great relationship,” he said. “He told me, whatever I did, that he would support me. Whatever I do, (Marlin) said that I would have to work hard for it.”
“If I would have known that he was going to be 10th (in the draft),” Marlin said Monday, “I would have told (Payton) to go immediately.”
At UL-Lafayette, Payton wasn’t known for consistent outside shooting nor accuracy from the free-throw line. But former Cajuns teammate Kasey Shepherd said he’s certain that won’t affect Payton in the pros.
“Spot-up shooting is not his game, but he’s really been working on it,” Shepherd said. “He is still a scorer because of his ability to get to the rim. If anything, that’s going to do it for him. The reason why I think Elfrid will be successful (in the NBA) is because he hates to lose. Trust me, I know. He really hates to lose.”
Cajuns center JJ Davenport said, in his opinion, Payton’s leadership skills will play a role in his NBA future.
“He’s always setting the example,” Davenport said. “For him, it’s going to also be his defense and his ability to penetrate and get to the basket.”