‘He meant so much to all of us:’ Dayton basketball standout killed in Orlando shooting

The basketball world and the Dayton community were shocked to learn of the Monday shooting death of Adreian Payne, a former local high school basketball standout who played at Michigan State University and in the NBA.

Payne, 31, died early Monday morning at a hospital following the shooting at an Orlando, Fla., townhouse, the Orange County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office told the Dayton Daily News.

“He meant so much — not as a player, but as a person — to all of us,” Art Winston, his former Jefferson High School head coach, said. Art’s wife Brenda received Mother’s Day greetings from Payne every year, even as recently as Sunday. That’s how close Payne was to his former Jefferson High School family.

ExplorePHOTOS: Dayton basketball star Adreian Payne, though the years

The alleged shooter, identified as Lawrence Dority, 29, stayed at the scene of the shooting and was taken into custody for interviews by homicide detectives. He has been arrested on a warrant for first degree murder and is being held in the Orange County Jail.

No other information was available from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office late Monday afternoon.

Payne, a 6-foot-10 center, was born in Dayton in 1991. He graduated from Jefferson High School in 2010. He helped lead the team to a Division IV state championship as a senior.

ExploreFormer NBA, Michigan State star Adreian Payne shot, killed

“He was our best player,” Winston said. “He was great leader on and off the floor. He did everything that was asked of him in the classroom. You never had to worry about him getting in trouble. I won’t say he was perfect, but he was close.”

Dr. Richard Gates, superintendent of Jefferson Township Local School District, was the principal at Jefferson when Payne was in school.

“We were very saddened to hear the tragic news Adreian’s passing,” Gates said in a statement. “He was an outstanding young man with so much potential. He will forever be one of the Jefferson Township Educational Community’s shining stars.”

Payne played for Michigan State from 2010-14. He was a three-year starter who scored 1,232 points in his career. The Spartans reached the Sweet 16 in his junior and sophomore seasons and the Elite Eight in his final season.

The Dayton Daily News reported previously Payne lost his mother to a severe asthma attack when he was just 13. Payne was diagnosed with the same reduced lung capacity during his freshman year at Michigan State.

Credit: Ron Alvey

Credit: Ron Alvey

He earned bigger headlines for befriending a young cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth, 8, during his college career. They grew so close she walked out with him onto the court during Senior Night in 2014 and helped him cut down the net when Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament that same season. She died in April 2014.

ExploreARCHDEACON ARCHIVES: ‘Superman’ Payne the toast of college basketball

The Atlanta Hawks drafted Payne with the No. 15 pick in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2014. He played four seasons in the NBA (2014-18) and appeared in 107 games with the Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic.

In 2018, he was waived by the Orlando Magic after he was named in a report by ESPN’s Outside The Lines that stated he had been involved in an alleged sexual assault at Michigan State in 2010, according to ESPN.com.

No charges were filed in that case, but Payne never played in the NBA again, according to ESPN.com.

Payne’s basketball career continued overseas through 2021. He played in Greece, China, Turkey and Lithuania.

In September 2021, Payne said on social media that he was taking a break from basketball because his 4-year-old son Amari had to undergo a brain procedure. He said basketball was not as important as his family.

“I will be back doing what I love soon,” Payne wrote on Twitter. “Basketball has my heart. Amari is my heartbeat.”

Jared Sullinger, who played in the Big Ten at Ohio State at the same time Payne was at Michigan State, was one of the first to comment on Payne’s death on Twitter.

“Hate the news i received this morning,” Sullinger wrote. “Rest Easy to my brother/teammate.”

Rhode Island coach Archie Miller, who was an assistant coach at Ohio State and Arizona, during Payne’s high school career, wrote on Twitter: “Sad to hear the passing of Adreian Payne this morning. Started watching him while he was in 10th grade, remember his grandmother on his visit. Loved seeing him develop at Michigan St. and become an NBA player. (Prayers) for his loved ones, Spartans, and Dayton, OH. #RipAP”

Wright State assistant coach Travis Trice, whose son Travis played with Payne at Michigan State, wrote, “Life is short. Treasure your loved ones while you can! Rest easy, Adreian Payne.”

Nick Ward, who played for the Spartans from 20016-19, called Payne a “Michigan State legend” and wrote he was “one of the reasons I wanted to play in Green and White.”

Winston saw Payne’s potential in junior high. He played wide receiver and quarterback in football and ran track as well as play basketball.

Payne was 6-foot-8 as a sophomore and grew to 6-10 as a senior. By that time, he ranked among the nation’s top recruits. In the summer of 2008, before his junior season, Rivals.com ranked him 14th in the class of 2010. Payne remained dedicated to improving his game and averaged 15 points as a junior and 15.9 as a senior.

“You have to improve every year,” Payne told the Dayton Daily News then, “because if you don’t they’ll think, ‘What is he doing there? Is he doing his work? Is he slacking off?’ A lot of people get the big head and don’t focus on their game because they think they’re already there. I’m not there yet.”

Former college teammate Brandon Wood said he had kept in touch with Payne, speaking with him as recently as last month about his plans to start a non-fungible token.

“He was looking to start an NFT tied to the Spartans,” Wood said in a telephone interview. “I’ll never forget the good times I had with him and Draymond (Green) when we were roommates. If you ever spent time around AP, you understood that he had a really big heart and he cared about people.”

Michigan State great Magic Johnson remembered Payne with a post on social media. “Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and Spartan Nation! Adreian will be sorely missed,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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