Mr. Basketball Candidates?--Enter Cully Payne

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By Roy & Harv Schmidt

There may be no player in the state who has been more scrutinized from the time he was in eighth grade until now more than Schaumburg's Cully Payne. In fact, the debate will probably forever linger on regarding how good of a college player he will be at Alabama. However, after watching him turn in two clutch performances at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament, we wonder if anyone else is thinking what we are thinking.

To cut through the chase, we are thinking that Payne has become a legitimate candidate for Mr. Basketball in Illinois if he continues to do what he has done for his team so far this season. In fact, it is quite reminiscient of what last year's winner, Kevin Dillard, did for his Homewood-Flossmoor team throughout the regular season.

Before anyone comes out and disagrees with us, it is important to remember that the winner of Mr. Basketball does not necessarily go to the player who is the best college prospect. A far more important criteria is what that player has done for his high school team, meaning that performance means much more than college potential when it comes to voting for the award. That is exactly why we believe that Payne has emerged as a most legitimate candidate.

Just as Dillard put H-F on his back last season and took an undefeated team into the state tournament, Payne has almost accomplished the same thing at Schaumburg this season, with Schaumburg's only loss coming to Warren in the championship game at Pontiac. However, it was Payne's two games at Pontiac prior to the matchup versus Warren that have us saying what we are now.

In a second round contest versus Peoria Manual, we thought that Payne was ordinary through the first three quarters. But then in the fourth quarter he came to life. From that point on all one had to do was look at the fire in his eyes to come away realizing that he simply wasn't going to allow his team to lose. Payne finished the game with 21 points, shot 6-15 from the field and had 8 assists in leading Schaumburg to a hard-fought 78-75 victory.

While we were impressed with how Payne responded down the stretch in the Peoria Manual game, that paled in comparison with his signature performance at Pontiac, which came against Plainfield North in the semifinals. In that game, Payne finished with 27 points including five three-point field goals in carrying Schaumburg to a 50-48 win. But forget the stats--it was the final play of the game that defines what Payne is all about.

With Schaumburg trailing by a point with 6.8 seconds left, head coach Bob Williams tried to design an inbounds play to get Payne the ball. Once Williams saw that Payne was bottled up, he did a masterful job of calling a timeout almost immediately and going back to the drawing board. There are now 6.3 seconds remaining. Payne received the ball on the inbounds pass and actually stepped back, rose up from NBA range (at least 25 feet) and drilled a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. Game over, and Schaumburg is on to the championship.

In a nutshell, Payne's game winner against Plainfield North personifies what he is all about. He is a fierce competitor who wills his team to win, makes all of his teammates better and consistently gets it done in crunch time situations. Not only that, but Payne plays with a level of confidence that is mind-boggling. He has no fear and is as mentally tough as they come. It is therefore no surprise that Payne played all 32 minutes in both the Peoria Manual and Plainfield North games.

As we indicated earlier, Payne's game has been scrutinized from day one, beginning with when he offered a verbal commitment to Jerry Wainwright and DePaul University before ever playing a high school game. From that point on, the level of expectations have become so high that many of them may be too lofty and unrealistic. Ironically, it is nowhere near the degree of pressure that Payne places upon himself, which again is illustrative of his huge competitive fire. Payne would ultimately end up changing his mind and as a result signed a letter of intent with Alabama this past fall. At the present time, the jury is still out in the minds of many people regarding whether or not Payne is a good fit for the SEC.

We are not going to specifically address Payne's level of ability as it pertains to college in this blog. There are some things we would still like to see him work on such as cutting down on his turnovers (he had five versus Manual and six versus Plainfield North). However, that is a mute point when one considers how he consistently responds when the game is on the line.

Simply put, Naperville Central's Drew Crawford, Loyola Academy's Matt Sullivan and Washington's Dyricus Simms-Edwards not withstanding, there is no player in the state who means more to the success of his team than Cully Payne, which we also thought was the case with Dillard and H-F last season. With that being said, we think that with Payne leading the way, there is a very good chance that Schaumburg could be playing in the Class 4A state finals in Peoria come March. We don't yet know how good of a college player Payne will be, but we do know that he is a very good high school player. Which is why when Mr. Basketball comes calling in the spring, Payne is a player who should receive the utmost consideration for the award.

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14 Comments

Agree that Payne is a legit candidate for this award.

How about other players that are just as deserving?
Darius Smith from Marshall.
The star from Thorton that helped win the Big Dipper?
And Luke and Guzman from Morton


Roy & Harv Respond:


Agreed!

I'd agree as well. I watched both games on the tube and came away quite impressed. He displays great competitive urgency the entire game. No one's working harder on the floor and you can clearly see how much his teammates depend on that effort.

Jereme Richmond should also be in this discussion. Remember he is the best prospect in the state of Illinois.


Roy & Harv Respond:


Tim,


Richmond would be our frontrunner. Go back and read the previous blog we wrote about about Richmond and what he means to the future of Illini recruiting.

an outside shot might be Richard's Shaun Pratl.. ever since the incident with him and the police he's looked like a man on a mission averaging 25 and 11 through a 6 game stretch.

It is my opinion Cully Payne has been denied long enough. He is no doubt should be consider a candidate for Mr Basketball. Also it is my opinion the hold Morton team if not the starting five should be a candidate for Mr Basketball. This team have battle it way into people hearts. I will speak the truth Payne is a true gamer that make his team better by doing whatever it take.

Brandon Paul should probably be the forrunner. Since his team consists of some pretty low level players. Yet he has put Warren in a position to possibly win state.

From what I have seen, Jerome Richmond is the most talented player in Illinois and this year is playing his most selfless team basketball. Second to Richmond I would put Brandon Paul who is raising the level of his teammates while keeping them in games.

How about Conrad Krutwig out in Algonquin from Jacobs?! He is averaging 20+ points and about 8 boards. He is keeping them as a tough team himself. Down in Quincy and around the northwest burbs.

Roy & Harv Respond:

We have been saying for the past year that Conrad Krutwig is underrated and underappreciated. We believe that South Dakota landed a recruiting steal.

Payne is an excellent player. Unfortunately it looks like he will be out for some time with a cracked vertebra. Hopefully he is a quick healer.

Have to agree that Richmond is the best player I have seen this year.

Krutwig played very well this weekend at the Sears Center. Showed he can handle the ball, shoot's it well, rebounded well and is athletic and quick.

North Lawndale could have been tired from losing to Whitney Young, but they did not play a good team game. Mills is a rebounding beast. Taylor didn't start, but played well. Overall they looked talented but did not play a team oriented game Saturday night.

St.Joe's played a terrific game. Guards made good decisions and shot the ball well. Greene looked better than I have ever seen him play, athletic, passionate, blocked a ton of shots, altered many more played solid defense and scored a bit. Could be a solid steal for UIC.

Roy & Harv Respond:

We don't know what has gotten into Louis Green, but he is playing as well as he can possibly play right now and coach Pingatore has to be thrilled at the effort that he is getting from in game in and game out. If Green continues to play at this level St. Joseph is a definite threat in the class 3A state tournament.

Payne is an impressive player who was highly touted as a freshman playing with Burlington Central (even more impressive was the elevation of his game in such a short span contributing for, then a 2A program, now competing with the big dawgs in 4A).

However, as Roy and Harv briefly stated, Drew Crawford means the world to his team at Naperville Central and he's putting up gaudy numbers Mr. Basketball recognition.

The Northwestern recruit is averaging 23 points per on a 16-2 team averaging 59 a game. He's also pulling down 8 boards a game. I've been fortunate enough to follow a handful of Redhawk games the past two seasons and opposing teams have failed to shut the 6'-5" guard down night in and out (considering the double and triple teams he faces regularly).

Last season Crawford averaged 18 while sinking 3 game winners at the buzzer.

he's to good not to get mr.basketball he puting up m.v.p numbers right now

Roy & Harv Respond:

We believe that he will be in the running along with a lot of other candidates.

Why does it seem that you guys are leaving out Matt Vogrich from this discussion. I can't imagine how you feel like Cully Payne is more integral to Shaumburg's success than Matt Vogrich is to Lake Forest's. If Lake Forest didn't have Matt Vogrich on their team, I can't imagine they would have been able to win more than 10 games this season, especially with the difficulty of their schedule. I agree Cully is an impressive player who has had a great season and has also carried his team, however the way that Vogrich has carried a Lake Forest team to their current record(14-3) through one of the states most difficult has been extremely impressive an should not be ignored. Wins over Warren and De La Salle, only losses to GBN, Warren(he put up 39), and Normal(basically playing at home at State Farm Clasic). I love your guys enthusiasm for Cully, but please don't leave Vogrich out of this discussion, he's equally if not more deserving.

Roy & Harv Respond:

We are not leaving Matt Vogrich out of the discussion for Mr. Basketball. However, this blog was about Cully Payne, not Vogrich or any other player.

Leaving Vogrich out of the discussion is a mockery. Vogrich puts up equally if not more impressive numbers than Payne. What most people do not realize is that he is the best rebounder on his team (consistently pulling down 8-10 boards a game) while dropping dimes like he's an ATM machine. His all around great play while carrying his team to a 14-3 record at this point gives him the right to at least be in the talk of the award. Watch out for him in the future. Peace

I agree with the two guys above me, Porter and David. I think you guys should write a Matt Vogrich article and start a blog, here's a kid that truly deserves the award and needs some recognition. Leads and 18-3 Scouts ball club who is greatly over-achieving, 100% due to Matt Vogrich's stellar play. It's pretty clear I am a Scouts fan and supporter, but seriously, let's give this kid credit where credit is due. Matt Vogrich for Mr. Basketball. No doubt about it.

Roy & Harv Respond:


We have mentioned Vogrich many times as a Mr. Basketball candidate. We believe that he and Naperville Central's Drew Crawford are the top two "sleeper" candidates in terms of where they were at heading into this season. We agree that Vogrich has been instrumental in Lake Forest's success.

However, just because we do not put a rubber stamp on any one kid does NOT mean that we are not showing them respect. Everyone has to understand that scouts are NOT hype artists nor should they be. Unfortunately, too many serve in this capacity. And the media in this city is even worse with their constant overhype of EVERY top underclassman's performance in every game they cover.

Scouts do NOT serve to write favorable articles or nice things about everyone who deserves it. The media should not serve in that capacity either. There are far too many who do. Rather, scouts serve to objectively mention kids playing well who deserve opportunities at various levels of collegiate play. We feel we have done that for 25 years now, and have helped be one small part of the piece of the puzzle in helping over 1000's of kids get scholarships at all levels. If that isn't respect, we do not know what is.

We cannot lose focus of the fact that THIS is what we are supposed to be doing, NOT writing hype articles on every kid who may deserve the hype.

Thanks for understanding.

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This page contains a single entry by Roy & Harv Schmidt published on January 1, 2009 3:16 PM.

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