The biggest problem Vanderbilt men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings is likely to have with recent signee Adam Payton is deciding at which position to play him, according to Lawrenceville School coach Ronnie Kane.
Kane told VandyMania Thursday that Payton, a 6-3, 180-pound senior who signed with Vanderbilt during the late signing period, is versatile enough to play three positions and could be an immediate contributor at VU.
"He has that rare combination of athleticism and basketball skills," said Kane. "It's hard to pin down what he is. In this day and age people coin phrases-- shooter, slasher, point guard, combo guard, etc. Well, Adam is really a 1-2-3 combo. He's truly multi-dimensional.
"He handles the ball like a point guard, he shoots it like a 2, and he has the athleticism of a 3-man. He's blessed with tremendous athleticism."
According to Kane, it's Payton's unusual upper body strength that could allow him to become an immediate contributor for the Commodores.
"He has a great body. He's a strong player, and strong with the basketball. It's usually a strength issue that keeps a kid with his talent from stepping in and helping right away [in college]. But that's not the case with Adam. He has a big-time body and big-time athleticism. He's very skilled too."
At 6-3, Payton dunks the ball with ease, and is capable of creating a shot off the dribble. Of his defensive abilities Kane said, "He's rangy, with long arms... he's very competitive. He has a lot of deflections and gets his hands on a lot of balls."
Payton played three years under Kane at The Lawrenceville School, an elite prep school in Burlington, N.J. which has produced several other Division I players. During those three years Payton racked up numerous honors, including the Trenton Times' All-Prep Player of the Year his senior year, and the Newark Star-Ledger's Player of the Year his junior year.
As a senior, Payton averaged 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 3-pointers per game, while shooting 75 percent from the free-throw line. In his three years at Lawrenceville, Payton scored 1,390 points to become the school's all-time leading scorer.
"Adam is a man of exemplary character, a fine student, and a phenomenal basketball player," said Kane. "What's most impressive about him is his strong desire to improve. He has an unparalleled work ethic. He wants to become the best player he's capable of becoming.
"He's always dreamed of playing at the highest level. He's a player who thrives on competition, and plays his very best in big games. He wants to play with and against the best."
Payton received attention from a wide range of schools, says Kane. "St. Joseph's (Pa.) offered him early on. Rutgers came and took a serious look... East Carolina... William & Mary... most of the MAC schools, and quite a few in the Colonial Conference.
"In many ways he was the best-kept secret in all of New Jersey."
Vanderbilt had no scholarships to offer until March, when Brendan Plavich announced his intentions of transferring. Payton visited Vanderbilt the last week of March and was instantly impressed, said Kane. "After his visit he was very comfortable with the academic environment and the social environment [at Vanderbilt], and his basketball situation."
Payton has also been a terrific citizen and role model on the Lawrenceville campus, says Kane. "He's held in very high esteem by our community as a person, student and player."
In the summer of 2001 Payton was chosen to be an all-star on a team that traveled to Communist Cuba with the Boys Club of New York.
"I happened to have been a coach on that trip," said Kane. It was about far more than playing basketball-- it was about good will and building bridges.
"Adam did a wonderful job on that trip. There was a community service component, and a lot of sharing and giving. His participation on that really epitomized the type of person that he is-- unselfish, unassuming, modest, all those characteristics that aren't always the case in schoolboy athletics."
So many reporters and college recruiters have called by now inquiring about Payton, that Kane has come up with a standard line he uses to describe his prize player.
"I tell them, as graceful a basketball player as Adam is-- and graceful is a word that's been used a lot to describe his fluidity on the floor-- he's every bit as graceful as a person, in terms of how he's handled his success on and off the court," said Kane.
Photos compliments of the Lawrenceville School.