Missing a month’s worth of game with a foot injury naturally left Adreian Payne’s conditioning a bit out of sorts.
The senior forward played just 18 minutes in his first game back, but jumped to 32 against Wisconsin on Sunday.
The long minutes were unexpected by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, but more than welcome.
”I think as far as he goes, I think he has done an incredible job,” Izzo said.
Izzo noted Payne’s conditioning, defense and rebounding aren’t quite where they need to be as he works to get back in playing shape, but he is averaging 18 points.
Against the Badgers on Sunday, Payne had 24 points, showcasing all elements of his game. He scored with his back to the basket in the post, driving, from 3-point range and using the pick-and-roll.
Point guard Travis Trice said after missing time, Payne has added better balance to his game between shooting and driving.
“I think it’s weird because before he got hurt, he kind of struggled with which one to do,” he said. “It seems like being off a month and just watching, he sees it and know he knows when to roll and now he knows when to pop.
”It’s really worked out for him.”
Undeniably, spending seven games on the bench gave the senior a difference perspective on the game.
“It slows down a lot more,” Payne said. “I’m just trying to do everything I can do to get out there and help my team.”
Trice, who has missed a pair of games this season, said a player gains better insight to the game while being on the bench.
“Anytime you can sit out there, it’s a lot easier to see things,” he said. “I think he’s realized that I can get easier buckets if I read the defense.”
With the gained knowledge – and with the game slowed down – Payne said he is just focused on trying to dominate.
”I just want to do everything I can to help the team,” he said.
That might have just gotten a whole lot easier, at least Trice thinks so, as he said the sky is the limit for Payne.
”For a while, he’s just relied on his athletic ability and just being better than other people,” Trice said, “but now he’s starting to read the game, so it’s going to help him out a lot.”
Adding an extra ability in reading the game to an arsenal of athleticism and shooting ability only serves to make Payne an even better player, but in what way is he most lethal?
”Pick your poison, really,” Trice said.