Catching Up with Cully Payne

Recently WeAreDePaul.com had the opportunity to catch up with Burlington Central High School freshman point guard and future DePaul Blue Demon Cully Payne. The Class of 2009 prospect averaged 18 points per game in his debut season on the Varsity team at Burlington.

Cully Payne became a media sensation by committing to DePaul Blue Demons head coach Jerry Wainwright before he had even played one game of high school basketball. We wondered how Payne's life has changed since committing to DePaul? "It's a little different. I'm just walking down the school hall and everyone is saying 'Hi'," said Payne. "People that I don't even know are coming up to me. I walk in gyms and people automatically look, it's different."

Payne must feel as though he has a target on his back when he gets on the basketball floor as opponents are gunning for him. "Some people are out to get me a little bit more on the court," Cully remarked.

For a 5-11 point guard finishing his freshman season and playing on the 15 and Under AAU circuit with the Illinois Stars, Payne still has a long way to go from playing at the high major Division I college basketball level. What advice does the DePaul coaching staff offer Payne on how best to improve? "I haven't talked to them recently," Payne commented. "Keep working on what you're doing. There is always someone else out there trying to compete. I'm in the gym every day working. Just keep working hard and don't let up."

Payne is working on what it will take to improve to be successful at the next level. "Right now there aren't very many things." said Illinois Stars coach Troy Johnson. "Especially when you consider that he's only a freshman. His drive is unbelievable. For a freshman kid who puts as much time into it as he does, it's phenomenal. Things that he continues to work on are just continuing to be a true point guard and setting his teammates up. One of the main reasons that he loves playing with this team is that he's never had this much talent around him because he doesn't have to score as much as he does at his high school. He has such a high basketball IQ. He's got to get stronger. Especially in the AAU season, it's similar to a college grind in some ways in that you get worn down. By July you start to physically get worn down. He needs to continue to stay in the weight room and continue to work on his conditioning."

The Stars having been competing in tournaments such as the Spiece Run 'n Slam against 15-U competition, but they have also qualified to step up and compete against 16 and Under competition at the AAU National Tournament this summer.

When Payne isn't in the gym working, he does what most kids his age do. Cully recently turned 16 and like many his age, he is looking forward to getting his driver's license.

Cully is the son of Elgin Community College head coach Kent Payne. When one sees Cully's near perfect shooting mechanics, it's obvious that the marksman is a coach's son.

Payne's early commitment to Wainwright and DePaul has generated a lot of positive publicity for the men's basketball program. He has helped stimulate interest in DePaul amongst other players. "I get a lot of questions about it," Payne said.

Scout.com subscribers be sure to check out the video of Cully Payne greeting his fans and admirers. Stay tuned to WeAreDePaul.com for updates on the high school career of this future DePaul hoopster.

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