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February 21, 2013
The MOsports.com staff with the help of top basketball talent evaluators from around the Show Me State have put together a list of the Top 50 players in Missouri. This was a difficult process to find the top players in the state, regardless of class. Players were evaluated on current level of skill, and potential at the next level.
Martavian Payne, senior, had his coming out party during his sophomore season. According to Tony Irons, Madison Prep head coach, Payne's best moment came in the Class 4 District 4 championship game against Miller Career Academy on Feb. 24, 2011. Payne scored 19 points in the game for the then named Imagine Prep Bears. With six seconds left, Payne ended the game with an exclamation point as he stole the ball at midcourt and scored on a layup at the buzzer, completing the comeback and securing the victory.
"He made probably two or three of the biggest plays of his career," Irons said. "Just seeing him in a sense kind of take over a game really elevated him as one of the leaders on the team as a sophomore."
Two years later, Payne is now a 6'2 185-pound senior. He ranks first on the team in scoring, averaging 18 PPG along with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals playing both guard and forward. Payne was awarded to the 2011-12 First Team All-State. He is also a two time First Team All-District member and was on the Belleville East All-Tournament Team.
"He's a kid that is definitely one of the more talented kids that I've had the opportunity to coach," Irons said. "One of the things that stands out is that scoring comes easy to him."
According to Irons, Payne is one of the team's' best defenders, and he typically defends the opposing team's best offensive player.
"He can almost guard every position now in the high school level," Irons said. "It's nothing for him to guard someone who's four or five inches taller than him, or someone who's shorter than him. He does a good job of doing that and scoring on the offensive end at the same time."
Irons said Payne's constant improvement on both ends of the court are because of his hard working attitude. Payne compares himself to Los Angeles Lakers' guard and 2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant.
"I love Kobe," Payne said. "We connect because he has a good work ethic and I work hard everyday -on and off the court- just as he does."
Irons describes Payne as a player with a hard hat and a workman-type attitude. He believes Payne's hard work has allowed him to grow to be one of the leaders on the Madison Prep squad.
"He's not one that just uses his talent and doesn't put in the work," Irons said. "He puts in the work to try to be the best basketball player he can. And for our team he's a leader. He leads by example."
Payne has led Madison Prep to a 24-2 record as of Feb. 20. Payne attributes their success to the closeness of the boys on the team.
"We have good team chemistry because we grew up together," Payne said. "We've been playing together since we were like four so we know each other and we get along. We're like brothers."
The close-knit Madison Prep squad made it to the Class 4 Semifinals in 2012. The Bears would lose to the Hillcrest Hornets by a score of 63-60. The Hornets were led by top football recruit and eventual Mizzou signee Dorial Green-Beckham who scored 24 points in that game. Payne scored 15 points and considers the opportunity to play in such a big game setting as his proudest moment.
"It was so important to me because nobody gave us a chance because no one knew us," Payne said. "Nobody came out and watched us all year so we just came out and tried to prove people wrong and show people we were one of the best teams around."
Irons said the run his team made in 2012 exposed Payne to college scouts. Payne is currently signed to play basketball for Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO). According to Payne, he chose the college after he visited the campus and fell in love with the staff and players.
"I think it's a good choice for him," Irons said. "SEMO was the first to really show interest in him and he's a loyal kid. So he took what they gave him and went with it."
When Irons met Payne three years ago, the first thing he noticed was Payne's natural and strong body. Irons always knew Payne would grow to be the player he is today.
"When he was young we could tell he was going to develop and that he had good potential and he had a good upside with his size," Irons said. "He just continued to progress and get better each year. Then he just blossomed."