Kenny Payne finally a Wildcat

Kenny Payne finally a Wildcat

Kentucky landed Kenny Payne a quarter century after the Wildcats recruited the former Parade All American as a standout forward as a high school senior in Laurel, Mississippi. Payne's playing days are now a part of history, but he is expected to be a significant addition to Kentucky coach John Calipari's squad as he brings to Lexington a reputation as a rising star as a recruiter.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kenny Payne has joined the UK men's basketball coaching staff as an assistant coach, Kentucky coach John Calipari announced on Friday.

Payne's journey to Lexington has been one that began a quarter century ago, when he was recruited by then UK coach Joe B. Hall as part of the high school class of 1985. When Hall retired following the 1985 season Payne was pursued by new UK head coach Eddie Sutton, but ultimately opted to play for Denny Crum's Louisville Cardinals.

After a lengthy pro career in the NBA and overseas Payne returned to Louisville and completed his degree, and has served as an assistant at the University of Oregon since the summer of 2004.

Calipari commented on what drew him to pursue Payne when Rod Strickland opted to move into a staff position that would require less traveling. "Kenny Payne has been a part of our coaching family for the last 10 years and he's been a part of our yearly retreat," said Calipari. "I've watched his growth over the years and I've always been impressed. I've offered him a couple of jobs in the past that he passed on because of his loyalty to Oregon. This should be a great opportunity for him and naturally I'm thrilled about what he brings to our staff."

Payne spoke of his move to Lexington to work for Calipari.

"I feel fortunate and honored to have an opportunity to coach for one of the hottest and best coaches in college basketball at one of the premier programs, both historically and today, in all of college basketball," said Payne. "I look forward to being a part of the team, growing as a coach and learning from one of the best, while helping Kentucky win a national title."

Payne is ultimately qualified to connect with high rated recruits. He was a Parade All-American and the state's of Mississippi's player of the year at Northeast Jones High School in Laurel, Mississippi before playing his college basketball for the Cardinals.

At Louisville, he scored 1,083 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range during his four-year career, while helping the Cardinals to the 1986 National Championship. His best year was his senior season when he averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and was named to the All-Metro Conference team.

Payne completed his eligibility at Louisville in 1989, then embarked on an 11-year professional career that would take him to nine countries on five different continents. He was a first-round selection in the 1989 NBA draft, going 19th overall to the 76ers. Payne averaged 3.5 points per game during his four-year NBA career with Philadelphia.

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