To go or stay: Payne has 'a lot on his mind'

For most players, the decision to turn pro or return to school seems obvious. If you’re a legitimate first-round pick, why play another season and reject millions of dollars?

I know I’m guilty of suggesting that the calls are that black and white. And I usually encourage players to take the money and run.

Today’s opportunity could disappear tomorrow, especially for this season’s crop of NBA prospects. The 2013 recruiting class is loaded with future pros. So lottery picks this year could potentially become borderline first-round picks if they decide to stay for another season.

But it’s only that simple from the outside.

These young men are facing one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. And money is not the only thing that they’re considering. They’re thinking about their friends, their college coaches, their families and their futures.

That’s why we’re still waiting for multiple players to announce their decisions before the NBA’s early entry deadline on Sunday.

Adreian Payne is on that list. Michigan State’s 6-10 forward, who averaged 10.5 PPG and shot 38.1 percent from the 3-point line last season, is projected on multiple draft boards in the late first-round, mid-second round region of this summer’s draft.

There’s a large pool of players in that 20-40 zone. And that, according to radio host and author Jack Ebling, is only making things harder on Payne as the deadline approaches.

Ebling, who wrote “Heart of a Spartan,” spoke with Payne earlier this week (mlive.com):

After running into Adreian Payne at a Lansing restaurant Monday night, Ebling said he honestly couldn't tell if the Spartans' junior was leaning toward coming back to Michigan State for his senior season of basketball or ready to go to the NBA.

"It wasn't an interview — I wasn't there for that,'' Ebling said, asked to recount his chance meeting with Payne.”He was alone, sitting by himself, and he had just gotten off the phone. He had a glass of water sitting on the table in front of him, and he had his head in his hands.''

Payne has been projected as a very late-first to mid-second round NBA draft pick should he decide to make himself eligible for the draft before the April 28 deadline.

"I asked Adreian how he was coming with the process,'' Ebling said.”He had a lot on his mind, it's a tough decision. He said he didn't know what he was going to do, and he said that he wanted to get it over with.

"I asked if it would go up to the deadline, and he said he didn't want that. He wants to decide, he just doesn't know what to decide.''

Ebling, who covered the Spartans for years as a beat writer with the Lansing State Journal, has seen the events Payne is going through play out many times before with other Michigan State athletes.

"I think it’s 50-50 right now,'' Ebling said. "If he wanted to go, things aren't going to get any better in the final week. He is what he is.

Again, the decisions don’t seem as complicated from the outside.

But Payne is certainly one of many collegiate athletes who’ve been presented with this dilemma in recent weeks.

And his uncertain stock only magnifies the challenge. Do NBA scouts believe he’s the Euro forward who demonstrated his versatility in the postseason or the prospect who struggled with consistency throughout the regular season?

So much for Payne to consider right now.

A lot of weight on his shoulders.

And with so much money awaiting the players who make the right decisions, it’s easy to overlook that.