Jun 20, 2014 2:11 PM by Travis Webb
One year ago, the NBA Draft was maybe the furthest thing on Elfrid Payton's mind. Now in one week's time, the former Ragin' Cajuns star will have a front row seat to his future. Payton is one of a handful of NBA hopefuls invited to the "green room" in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York for Thursday's NBA Draft.
Traditionally, prospects projected to go in the lottery or late first round are invited to attend the draft to walk out on stage once they are drafted by a NBA franchise.
The Sun Belt Player of the Year has skyrocketed up draft boards for many experts going as high as 8th to Sacramento in some mock drafts.
Payton is in Los Angeles today for his second workout with the Lakers, which hold the 7th overall pick in the draft. In total, Payton has either worked out or been in contact with upwards of 11 NBA franchises.
If selected in the first round, he'll be the first Ragin' Cajun since Kevin Brooks in 1991 (18th - Denver) taken as the first rounder. Former Cajuns star and Sixers great Andrew Toney is the highest ever Cajuns selection, drafted 8th overall by Philadelphia in the 1980 NBA Draft.
During his three-year career with the Ragin' Cajuns, Payton finished 16th in school history in scoring (1,425 points) while grabbing 508 rebounds with 486 assists (fifth on the all-time list) and a school-record 197 steals. His 644 career free throw attempts were fourth in school history, trailing Bo Lamar (802, 1969-73), Tim Thompson (722, 1957-61) and Andrew Toney (690, 1976-80) - one of two players in school history to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Payton averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game in helping the Ragin' Cajuns to a 23-12 record and their first berth to the NCAA Championships since 2005. Payton scored in double figures in 32 of 35 games played, including 14 games with 20 or more points and four 30-point performances. On the season, Payton attempted a school-record 302 free throws, breaking the previous mark of 273 set by Dean Church in 1964-65.
He was honored earlier this year as the 2014 Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the Lou Henson All-America Team. Payton earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors, where he was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year, and the named the 2014 College Basketball Player of the Year by both the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA) and the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches (LABC).
Payton led the Sun Belt Conference in steals for the second consecutive year, recording 80 and finishing with a school-record total to 197. He finished second on the team in rebounds (6.0) and was part of a defensive unit that led the Sun Belt Conference in rebounding margin and was second in steals.
He was one of 10 Division I players during the season to record a triple-double when he scored 34 points, with 11 rebounds and 11 assists at ULM. Payton scored 31 points in games against Houston and Western Kentucky and 32 against Oakland while posting six double-doubles, including games at Louisiana Tech and defending national champion Louisville.
Payton spent last summer as the starting point guard for Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship, helping the team to the gold medal. The John Ehret High product took part in a seven-game goodwill tour of China and the Far East with Reach USA, where he led the team in scoring in seven games.
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