Evergreen native helps hoops team go unbeaten
There were hundreds of travel basketball teams playing in several tournaments in Las Vegas during the last weekend of July.
Precious few went undefeated.
It was the final live period for summer teams and players to show their skills in front of NCAA Division I coaches. With some of the country’s best high school players going against each other, wins were understandably difficult to collect.
But Full Package South, a team featuring Evergreen Park native David Payne, finished 8-0 and won the Platinum Division of the Las Vegas Classic after beating Pro Skills 51-44 in the title contest. Payne led the squad with 17 points before enjoying a boisterous celebration with his teammates afterward.
That success came just a few hours after a five-overtime 73-69 victory over Greenline (California), which followed a 63-46 win over the Utah Chargers.
Oh, and the Full Package team only had seven players, all of whom were dog tired by the end.
“It took all seven of us to win the tournament,” Payne said. “One player broke his wrist before the tournament and another had started football, [so] it was hard. We were all sore and stiff after each game.
“It was hard to enjoy the trip and it was hot there [with temperatures rising above 115 degrees at times]. I thought Chicago summers were hot, but Vegas — that’s something else.”
Pro Skills crushed three pool-round opponents by scores of 94-39, 86-44 and 73-27.
The Texas squad continued its surge in the Platinum Division until meeting up with Payne and his teammates.
“During the tournament we heard they were beating everybody up,” Payne said.
But that didn’t matter as Full Package triumphed. Payne played a major role despite standing 6-foot-4 and being asked to guard players in the 6-10 range because his team was undersized.
“I told David what I tell all of my players — I expect him to compete no matter who we are up against,” Full Package coach Edmond Pryor said. “I pushed him, scolded him and challenged him. He responded remarkably.’’
Payne grew up in Evergreen Park and attended Evergreen Park High School for two years before transferring to Perspectives Calumet Leadership in Chicago. He has reclassified and will attend a boarding school in either Atlanta or Florida before choosing a college.
So far Colgate University has shown the most interest, but Payne said Full Package’s title might entice more coaches to call. Meanwhile, he and his teammates — most of whom hail from Chicago — can savor a championship that many people didn’t see coming.
“Our motto was, ‘Always stay in the fight,’” Pryor said. “We focused on giving ourselves a chance to win every game.
“Winning a tournament like this doesn’t just happen — it was a process and I challenged this team to commit to the process and see it through. We came, we saw and we conquered.”