Q&A with Cully Payne

Two years have already passed since Cully Payne committed to DePaul just after finishing eighth grade. Payne, who is now 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, finished up a solid sophomore season at Burlington Central and nearly led his team to a regional title upset over Boylan with a 35-point performance.

Cully Payne switched AAU programs this spring and now is playing up with the Rising Stars' 17-and-under squad. His current AAU coach, Mike Weinstein has been impressed. "If you're looking for a more pure point guard, I don't know who's better," Weinstein said.

ILLHoops.coms publisher Scott Powers recently caught up with Class of 2009 guard to talk about his previous DePaul commitment, his growth as a player and his future.

Scott Powers from Ill. Hoops: Can you believe it's been two years already since you committed to DePaul?

Cully Payne: It seems like it's been real fast. I think it's blown by.

Ill. Hoops: Looking back, you still happy with your decision?

Payne: Yeah, very happy. I'm still going to stick with it.

Ill. Hoops: How have you changed as a player over the last two years?

Payne: This year, when I started playing with Rising Stars, I've started to become more of a pure point guard. My coach, Coach Weinstein, has been working with me on controlling a game and doing everything a point guard has to do.

Ill. Hoops: Are you seeing the game differently?

Payne: Overall, just playing with older kids, it's all slowing down. I feel real comfortable out there.

Ill. Hoops: From an eighth-grader to a junior in high school, you must look at life and hoops a bit different?

Payne: Just dealing with it fan-wise. I've gotten some prank calls. I had to almost change my cell phone. It all hit me how big it is and what I committed to. You're always playing people gunning after you extra hard.

Ill. Hoops: Are you glad you committed early?

Payne: From just talking to the other guys, how much work they have to go through and how much pressure they have to go through, I'm glad to be done with it.

Ill. Hoops: Are you where you hoped to be as a player at this point?

Payne: Yeah, I am. Definitely. There's still tons of works to do, but I'm pretty happy where I'm at.

Ill. Hoops: Do you feel like you're constantly under a microscope having committed to DePaul early?

Payne: High school-wise when we play teams, they're like, ‘There's Cully Payne. We're playing his team.' I like that. I like dealing with pressure. I like coming out and having to play my best every game.

Ill. Hoops: Guys talk to you?

Payne: Some kids, they'll talk trash, which is normal. Other kids will ask me how it is. I find that weird. I don't really think about it. I guess it is a big deal.

Ill. Hoops: What do you feel are your strengths?

Payne: I would say I've gotten a lot stronger and quicker. I feel that's paid off playing AAU. No one's been able to stop me, which is huge for me, being able to play at the level I want to be. I'm shooting it real well. I think the best thing I do, I think, is I see the floor real well.

Ill. Hoops: Is that a natural ability?

Payne: I think ever since I was a little kid playing with my dad's team I had to learn to pass with big guys. I think it's paid off to what I do now.

Ill. Hoops: What do you still need to improve on?

Payne: I would say I would like to improve on finishing around the basket, getting a little stronger and quicker.

Ill. Hoops: Has your body developed the last couple of years?

Payne: I just had my physical a couple days ago. My height shot up 4 inches the last year. I'm 6-1 now. I've also gotten stronger. Working out with Nate from Get Fast Acceleration has really helped me.

Ill. Hoops: What was behind the change in AAU programs?

Payne: It wasn't any big issue. I really like coach Weinstein. I just really like him and the players they have out. When people see us warming up they laugh at us – a bunch of white guys. We play real hard and play together real well.

Ill. Hoops: Is there anything specific you're trying to focus on this summer?

Payne: I'm really trying to work on being able to control the game and trying to sense when it's getting out of synch.

Ill. Hoops: Do you have to adjust your game from Burlington Central to AAU?

Payne: The one big difference is I'm surrounded by a lot of good guys. I don't have to look to score as much I used to. I'm able to drive and kick better.

Ill. Hoops: Has playing at Burlington Central lived up to your expectations?

Payne: Yes, definitely. With last year's run we had and losing to Rockford Boylan, I enjoy being there.

Ill. Hoops: Are there any negatives or positives playing at Burlington Central?

Payne: There's definitely no negatives. I'm not playing Simeon or stuff. Coach (Chris) Payne is putting us against some big teams and better crowds next year. I like that stuff.

Ill. Hoops: There were rumors you may transfer. Any truth to that?

Payne: No. Everyone was asking me if I was going places. I said, ‘Not that I know of.'

Ill. Hoops: You really put on a show against Boylan. What was it about that game?

Payne: That game the only thing is I hate to lose, even when we're playing pick-up games. Talking to Coach Payne beforehand for us to compete and play good I had to play big.

Ill. Hoops: Have you been to a lot of DePaul games over the past few years?

Payne: I have been to a couple.

Ill. Hoops: What are your thoughts on where the team is and where it needs to be?

Payne: I don't really know. I think that's Coach Wainwright's call. I trust him. I think he's done a good job.

Ill. Hoops: If you could play any one-on-one, who would it be?

Payne: I'd probably like to play Michael Jordan one-on-one. He was the best. I would just like to see where I was compared to him.

Ill. Hoops: How do you feel about the new four-class system?

Payne: I guess it's good. It doesn't really matter to me.

Ill. Hoops: Any superstitions?

Payne: I'm not really superstitious.

Ill. Hoops: Tattoos?

Payne: No. My mom would kill me.

Ill. Hoops: Nicknames?

Payne: None that I know.

** Be sure to check out the latest FREE issue of the ILL. Hoops E-Magazine featuring interviews with Class of 2008 prospects Nick Fruendt, Iman Shumpert, and Kaleb Wright, class of 2009 duo Joseph Bertrand and Diamond Taylor, 2010 prospect Chancellor Carter, and former Kansas forward Julian Wright.

Read all about it at... ILL. Hoops


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