December 31, 2014

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – They aren’t related, but their name is synonymous with success this basketball season. Martavian Payne and Devontavius Payne are tearing it up for John A. Logan College, guiding the Volunteers to an 11-2 start.

Martavian or “Tae” as he is known by his teammates and coaches, is a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard from St. Louis, who played his high school ball for Madison College Prep.

Devontavius or “Devon” is a 6-foot-1 guard from Carbondale, who played his prep ball for the Terriers.

Both players are integral parts for an offense averaging more than 85 points per game. Martavian leads the team in scoring at better than 16 points per game, while Devontavius averages 12, in a reserve role no less.

“There isn’t much more to say about ‘Tae’ that I haven’t already said,” commented Vols third-year head coach Kyle Smithpeters. “He has bailed us out just about every single time we have needed him it seems. He is not afraid to take and make the big shot with the game on the line. And he has continued to improve his skills since he got here last season.”

Smithpeters believes Martavian Payne is not just one of the best all-around players he has seen play at Logan, but rather one of the best in the entire Great Rivers Athletic Conference.

“I think so,” he said. “His ability to hit a shot from anywhere on the floor makes him an exciting player to watch and he has added to that skill by taking the ball to the basket with more success this season. He is quickly becoming a complete player. And what’s even better is that he has done well with the academics and has been a model citizen off the floor.”

Smithpeters said Payne has the physical and mental toughness, as well as athleticism, to succeed at a Division I school.

“Schools from practically every major conference are asking about him. It’s going to be fun watching him on television for two years after he leaves here. I’m just glad he’s taking his time with the recruiting process so that he makes the decision that’s right for him.”

Martavian Payne is a 72 percent free-throw shooter and also dishes out 2.3 assists per game compared to 1.8 turnovers. Moreover, he yanks down more than four rebounds a contest.

“My mindset coming into the season was to improve my game and help this team any way that I can to win the conference and get to Nationals,” Payne said. “I think I have improved on getting to the basket and getting my teammates open shots to score.”

As for taking the shot with the game on the line, it’s no big thing, Payne said.

“I’ve always had confidence in my shot,” he said. “I just get in position, grab it, and shoot. I don’t think much about it.”

Payne, who plans to major in business management, said he has enjoyed his two years at Logan.
“It’s been what I hoped it would be,” he said. “I have enjoyed being around my teammates and everyone on campus. I just want us to finish on a positive note and then I can look ahead to the next two years.”

Devontavius Payne is the team’s third-leading scorer. He is shooting 79 percent from the free-throw line, averages 3.2 rebounds and is hitting threes at a 37 percent clip.

Although not big at 6-foot-1, Payne is athletic enough to score points underneath the basket with much taller players standing in his way. He has a knack for contorting his body in such a way that he can maneuver around his opponent and still find a way to lay the ball off the glass and through the iron.

“I have always been kind of a slasher,” he said. “I feel I have a gift for hanging in the air a little longer than most others.”

Payne said he improved his upper body strength in the off season, which allowed him to absorb more punishment in the paint, all while sharpening his long-range shooting skills.

“Transitioning to the college game was definitely challenging at first, but I think I am working things out pretty well. I always felt that I could contribute to this team’s success.”

Payne said sophomore guard, A.J. Riley, of Peoria, has mentored him.
“He’s helped me a lot,” Payne said. “He kind of took me under his wing and told me what I needed to do to fit in here. He has also pushed me to be a better player.”

Payne said that while he enjoyed playing football his senior year at Carbondale, basketball has always been his passion.

“For sure. It’s what I enjoy the most. I plan to play beyond Logan and hope to go as far as my game will take me.”

Smithpeters said, at first, he wasn’t sure if Devontavius Payne was ready for college ball because of his slight build. In fact, the idea of redshirting (withholding him from games for a year while maintaining an extra year of eligibility) the former Terrier was on his mind. But the more he saw Payne play in a series of preseason scrimmages, the more he knew that redshirting Payne was out of the question.

“Devontavius turned out to be one of our better players,” Smithpeters said. “He’s a consistent shooter, a guy you can’t leave open. And if you guard him too closely, he will drive right around you and take it to the basket. He understands the game very well and brings a raw energy to the court when he comes into the game. I don’t think I’ve had any kid finish so well around the basket. That’s a unique skill.”

Smithpeters added that Payne will only get better with experience.

“No doubt about that,” he said. “He’s just a fun player to watch develop. I’ve been very happy with his production.”