In the 2013-14 season for Franklin High, 6-foot-5 Austin Payne produced well-rounded numbers for a talented Wildcats team that finished 20-9 overall, 7-3 in the Delta Valley Conference. Try 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists for the very balanced squad. Now the 2015 prospect is looking to impress further this summer with the Play Hard Play Smart Renegades.
With high school teammates John Moscoso, Marvin Timothy (headed to Chico State), Benson Osayande (headed to Casper College), underclassmen Phillip Fayne, Christian Allen and others, scoring was evenly distributed for the Wildcats. So Payne made sure he was contributing in other ways.
He views his three-point shot and pullup jumper as his best basketball assets at this point, plus one other element. "My shotblocking. I have a 6-foot-8 wingspan, pretty good hops and good timing."
Making the most of his high school and club participation has resulted in well-rounded exposure. "Sometimes, we're mostly all guards so I have to guard bigger guys and rebound more. With the other, there's a lot of driving to the basket."
As for personal highlights, Payne recalls making seven three-pointers in eighth grade along with throwing down nine dunks during a tournament at Chico State. "That got the crowd really excited."
Detailing the growth in both his skills and mindset since his initial high school season, Payne explained, "as a freshman, I was not as aggressive and wasn't looking to score. I didn't have a consistent outside shot and a good game [for me] was based on how many points I scored. Now, I see that as rebounds and blocked shots."
The owner of a 3.5 grade point average, Payne took the SAT on June 7 and will have the results back later this month.
Thinking ahead, he already has selected his college major -- "it's going to be business."
"When I was younger, I had a lemonade stand and now I'm involved in selling shoes on EBay," said the budding entrepreneur.
As for this summer, Payne is seeking to "get my ballhandling skills as close to perfection as I can, make it tighter." Physically, it's "get stronger in my upper body and get quicker with my footwork."
He envisions himself as a point and shooting guard at the next level, hence his specific goals.
Lester Diaz, coach of the Play Hard Play Smart Renegades, offered: "Austin has a very high ceiling and colleges like Northern Arizona University, the Naval Academy and Sacramento State are showing the most interest. Others will bite. His high school coach wants him to be more well rounded and I hope our program can help him."
Having taken to the sport because "the older kids were playing at the community park," Payne's June, July and August opponents might just be wishing that a baseball diamond was there way back when instead of a basketball court.