Former Murray State point guard Cameron Payne made history Thursday at the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as the Oklahoma City Thunder selected him 14th overall. With the highest pick of any Racer and the last lottery pick of the draft, Payne is also the only Racer to be drafted in the first round. As the University’s lone sophomore to declare early and one of just four early entry draft candidates in the program’s 89-year history, Payne is in completely uncharted territory for the Murray State.
Payne worked out for four other franchises pre-draft in addition to meeting with the Thunder: the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets. As time progressed and the first thirteen lottery teams made their selections, suspense built as Payne and his fans waited to see if his projected lottery pick would prove to be true. In Chad Ford’s Mock Draft 8.0, released Thursday morning, Payne was projected at No. 11 to the Pacers, the first team he worked out for and the team whose president, Larry Bird, told Payne “good luck” and gave him a thumbs up after watching him practice.
“I was thinking I was going to go earlier, but man, God put me in the perfect fit,” Payne said. “Everything happened for a reason. I’m glad Oklahoma City gave me that chance, and I’m going to make the best out of my opportunity. That’s what happened at Murray, and that’s what I’m going to do at Oklahoma City.”
After a whirlwind sophomore season in which Payne led the Racers to an undefeated regular season in the OVC and to the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals, he also racked up many esteemed individual awards before declaring for the draft. These awards include OVC Athlete of the Year, third-team All-American by CBSSports.com, an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press and the Lute Olson National Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com.
With his newfound fame, Payne is staying grounded and focusing on the game that he loves.
“I’m still Cameron Payne,” he said. “Ain’t nothing changed. I may have a title, ‘professional,’ but I’m still a regular guy.”
Payne was also unconcerned with the $1 million-plus contract coming his way. If anything, he said he would put some of his first paycheck toward helping his family.
“I don’t care – I’m here to hoop,” Payne said. “I haven’t had no money playing basketball, so the fact that I don’t need it. I’m here to play basketball. That’s what I want to do.”
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Payne’s only focus is getting on the Thunder’s court and putting his name on the map in Oklahoma City through hard work.
“I mean, I take it Murray State is just like Oklahoma City; a small town, and it’s all about work,” Payne said. “It’s all about getting in the gym and doing what’s best for the team and putting your heart out for the organization every day.”
Story by Mallory Tucker