EAST LANSING - Junior forward/center Adreian Payne made his decision to stay at Michigan State official on Sunday evening, saying "I am going to stay my senior year and try to get us to a championship" during a press conference at Breslin Center.
Payne waited until three hours before the midnight deadline to enter the NBA Draft. He took into consideration his likely draft placement and weighed it against goals such as finishing his degree at Michigan State, winning a National Championship, and - most importantly - his potential longevity in the NBA.
"That was the big part," Izzo said. "A lot of people talk about the importance of getting drafted, but with the way the rules have changed in the NBA and the contracts being two-year deals (for rookies), you want to make sure that once you get to the NBA that you are good enough to stay."
That was Izzo's message, and it was reiterated by Payne's high school coaches Art Winston and Mark Parker. Payne's high school coaches met with Payne all last week in East Lansing and had a final sit-down on Friday night. Payne also met with five agents for their input, none of whom pushed him to go pro, according to Payne. Winston, Parker and Izzo were also present for most of those meetings with pro agents.
Izzo and pro agents were similar in their conclusions that Payne would have likely been a late first-round draft pick, possibly slipping to the second round.
"And we all believe that Adreian would have moved up in the draft based on workouts, because he'll be a great workout guy with the way he can shoot," Izzo said. "So I really believed he would have been a first-rounder."
But just being a first-rounder wasn't enough. Izzo, Winston and Parker were cautious about sending Payne into the professional ranks before he was completely ready. First-round draft picks are guaranteed two-year contracts, but recent trends have seen many of them sink into the NBA Developmental League and have trouble making it back up to the NBA.
Payne sought advice from past Spartan players such as Draymond Green, Steve Smith, Greg Kelser, Jason Richardson, Mateen Cleaves and Zach Randolph. None told Payne to leave or stay. "I think people are afraid to be held accountable for a decision like this," Izzo said.
Izzo spoke with several NBA general managers, and even a few college coaches, including Florida head coach Billy Donovan.
"Billy said something very interesting," Izzo said. "He said when Joakim Noah came back for an extra year, his stock might have stayed the same or even gone done a little bit. But he came back, won another title, and was stronger and more ready to stick in the NBA."
Payne spoke smilingly, with his chin up during Sunday's press conference. He had a noticeable air of increased confidence and leadership about him.
"He already seems different, doesn't he?" Izzo said after the press conference. "When he said those things about wanting to win a National Championship, he said it with some emphasis. He said it like he really, really meant it and wasn't just saying it.
"He said he wants to win a championship and he wants to be a better leader. I'm going to hold him accountable."
Payne said he went through several sleepless nights in making the decision.
"Oh man, it was going back and forth, like one of those swings like when you're a little kid, going back and forth," Payne said. "There were times when I would stay in bed till 2 in the afternoon just thinking about it."
Payne said he will sleep well tonight, and looked relieved.
"When Adreian says this was his decision, it really was his decision," Izzo said. "He had all the information from everyone and then on Saturday everyone kind of left him alone."
Izzo was scouting recruits in Virginia during the weekend.
"When I left (for Virginia on Friday), I thought Adreian was leaving (for the NBA)," Izzo said.
Izzo received word from MSU assistant coach Mike Garland later on Friday night that Payne still hadn't decided, and there was a chance he could come back for his senior year.
Izzo spoke with Payne Saturday night.
"After I spoke with him, I felt pretty confident that he was staying," Izzo said.
But Izzo didn't hear about Payne's decision, conclusively, until after reports were broken by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, who was tipped off of Payne's decisions by agents.
"I was pleasantly surprised, if you want the truth," Izzo said.
Izzo returned to Lansing at about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, met with Payne, and an 8:30 p.m. press conference was hastily arranged.
Before making his official announcement on Sunday, Payne apologized to media for waiting until the final hours of NBA deadline day to make his decision and for the lateness of the press conference.
Payne said he wants to continue the streak of four-year Izzo players making it to the Final Four. Every player signed by Izzo who has stayed all four years at MSU have played in the Final Four. The Payne/Keith Appling recruiting class of 2010 has not yet made it to the NCAA semifinals. Izzo's last Final Four was in 2010 when Payne was a senior at Dayton (Ohio) Jefferson Township High.
"Keith and I have to lead the team to the Final Four and a National Championship," Payne said. "We have the team. We just have to come together and I think once we do that, we'll be on a roll."
When Izzo beat out Kentucky and West Virginia for Payne's commitment in the fall of 2009, Dayton Jefferson High head coach Art Winston and assistant coach Mark Parker were central figures in helping Payne through the process, but no one was more influential than Payne's grandmother, Mary Lewis, who raised Payne.
Payne's grandmother passed away in the summer of 2011, leaving Payne with what he said on Sunday night was the first major decision of his life without her.
When Payne signed with Michigan State, he said staying for four years and getting a degree was extremely important to his grandmother.
"I'm 22 years old and I'm old enough to make my own decisions in life," Payne said. "This is my first decision without my grandmother. With the knowledge from Coach Izzo and my high school coaches, they were able to bring some things to my attention that I didn't see."
"It (the decision) would have been easier with his grandmother here," Izzo said. "It would have been over about a month ago. She would have grabbed him and me by the back of the hair. And don't think she would have made him leave. It would have been the other way. Right, Adreian?"
Adreian nodded in agreement.
The decision likely makes Michigan State a top-five team going into next season and could eventually help push Payne into half of the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.
It also puts him in a position to earn an interdisciplinary-studies degree in what has been a remarkable leap in the classroom from a student diagnosed as cognitively disabled as a child in Dayton, Ohio. He needs 14 credit to graduate, which he is scheduled to do next December.
"I like doing things the right way," he said. "With me graduating, I'm able to set a standard and be a role model for kids to look up to so I can give hope to another child that may have the same situation as me to let them know that it's possible."
The 6-foot-10 Payne averaged 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a junior last season. He produced more in each category in the NCAA tournament. Payne blossomed as a range shooter as a junior, hitting on 38 percent of his 3-pointer field goal attempts.
Big Ten freshman of the year Gary Harris announced last week he was staying at Michigan State for his sophomore season.
Michigan State will be without only one player, departing senior center Derrick Nix, from last season's team that won 27 games, finished second in the Big Ten and advanced to NCAA tournament's round of 16.
Payne will be part of a starting lineup next season that will include Appling and Harris in the backcourt and junior forward Branden Dawson with one spot up for grabs. Rising sophomore Matt Costello is a strong bet to earn the starting center job, with junior-to-be Alex Gauna available as an improving support player.