Cully Payne comes into the Iowa program with big expectations as the Hawkeyes will need him to play significant minutes as a freshman this winter. HN.com Senior Writer Rob Howe has watched the Illinois product through the summer and filed this scouting report.
Iowa fans celebrated the addition of Payne in the late-signing period more than any of the newcomers. The suburban-Chicago product not only provided impressive credentials, he also filled a major need after the Hawkeyes lost point guards Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson to transfer.
Fans filled filed into the stands at the North Liberty Recreation Center this summer to get a glimpse of Payne, who verbally committed to DePaul and then signed with Alabama before settling in Iowa City.
Scout.com lists Payne at 6-foot, 160 pounds. The weight probably is close, but the left-hander looks to be under the stated height.
It's sometimes a nauseating, over-used phrase, but Payne fits the true point guard description to a T. Payne commands the ball and directs the offense well even in a pick-up format such as the PTL where some guys will chuck it up after one pass. The left-hand guard really does a nice job going to his right, which keeps the defense from overplaying his dominant side. Payne sees the floor really well in both the half-court set and on the break, though it seems like he prefers the former and likes to slow it down. He does a nice job finding options if they're there in the secondary break. All of that has to be music to the ears of Iowa Head Coach Todd Lickliter
. By threatening the opposition with finding the open man, Payne creates opportunities to launch productively from the perimeter. He shoots the three at a steady clip and has a very fluid motion on his jump shot. No question, Payne looks to pass first, but he can make the defense pay if they back off of him. Also, after delivering passes, he does a nice job of moving without the ball, creating space and spotting up.
While Payne does a real nice job seeing the floor and setting up teammates, he might sometimes be overconfident and it gets him caught, which can lead to poor decisions. Think Peterson when he used to get himself stuck along the baseline as a freshman. Payne leaves his feet on too many occasions. He can find the open man in some of these instances, but other times it leads to errant passes or a forced shot. Payne also isn't going to win a lot of quickness battles, which could limit his ability to penetrate when the ball screens are being switched. It also could hamper him on defense when he matches up with a speedy lead guard. While solid and by no means skinny, Payne is a smaller guard that could get roughed up until he gets settled into a Division I weight program.
You'll like what you see most times from Payne. He's going to struggle with consistency on occasion as he showed in the PTL, but he fits the system, perhaps even better than Kelly or Peterson. The biggest question will be whether the team plays well enough around him to cover up his natural deficiencies, namely size and quickness. Kelly and Peterson are better defenders and better at creating their shots. But if Lickliter can finally get a group of five parts working together as one on both ends of the floor, Payne will be highly successful.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a four-part, scouting report series on Iowa players from the PTL.