The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

By Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher

ECU women inflict Payne on foes

La Salle transfer Jada Payne making an impact for Lady Pirates

Redshirt sophomore guard/forward Jada Payne has played a pivotal role as the East Carolina women's basketball team has started the season with seven straight wins for only the third time in program history. (ECU Media Relations photo)

ECU women inflict Payne on foes


Richmond rides Broncos for 37

Audio: Coach Lebo & Players
ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo and players Akeem Richmond and Antonio Robinson met with the press after the Pirates' win over Fayetteville State: Select clip...

Bowl win would neutralize bitter pill

Audio: Brian Bailey Show
The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. This week's guests were ECU assistant basketball coach Ken Potosnak and Rose High School football coach Dave Wojtecki: Replay show...
Audio: Steve Logan Show
The Steve Logan Show airs on FM 103.7 and FM 94.1 on Mondays from 6-8 p.m. Replay this week's show: Select clip...

C-USA Player of the Week


Seahawks resume series with win

Audio: Coach Lebo & Players
ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo and players Paris Roberts-Campbell and Caleb White met with the press after the Pirates' loss to UNC-Wilmington: Select clip...

This week in college football history


Game Center: Marshall 59, ECU 28


Pirates stopped cold


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Audio: Coach Ruff Post-game
ECU football coach Ruffin McNeill met with the press after the Pirates' loss to Marshall: Select clip...

Greg's Game Day Breakdown


Staff prepared to prepare


By Bethany Bradsher
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Jada Payne took a circuitous route to East Carolina – from Hickory up to Philadelphia, then back down to Greenville – but when she finally settled in as a Pirate she knew which number she wanted to wear – 23 as a tribute to the legendary Michael Jordan.

Unbeknownst to Payne, the number 23 means even more to the Pirate nation, as a symbol of the courage, character and leadership exemplified by the late ECU baseball coach Keith LeClair. The jersey number seems to be pointing to success at several levels for the redshirt sophomore who has sprinted out front as the top scorer and one of the floor leaders for the undefeated women’s basketball team.

When the Lady Pirates lost their three leading scorers from a team that went 22-10 and earned a bid to the WNIT, fans waited to see who would step up to provide the spark for the program that has developed a reputation for staying perennially competitive. Several players – Abria Trice, Kristine Mial, Shae Nelson – picked up that mantle, but none so determinedly as Payne.

Take last weekend’s Thanksgiving Tournament, which ECU hosted with visiting teams IUPUI (Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis) and Cleveland State. In a 71-51 victory over IUPUI, Payne led the team in both scoring and rebounding, with 18 points and seven boards. She followed that performance in dramatic fashion – scoring a career-high 33 points Sunday in a 75-66 win over Cleveland State that put the Pirates at 7-0 for only the third time in program history.

Payne was named tournament MVP for her efforts, and with those seven wins behind her she was averaging 20.6 points a game, including 21-of-38 from behind the three-point arc for 55 percent accuracy on three-pointers. With Trice, the team’s second-leading scorer with 16.1 points a game, playing opposite her, Payne is helping create a frustrating situation for opposing defenses, said head coach Heather Macy.

“With Abria on the other wing, they’re going to have a hard time doing double teaming, because we’ve got so many extra threats on every part of the floor,” said Macy, who was named Conference USA Coach of the Year last season.

“Everybody can make big plays, so it makes us really hard to guard as a team,” Payne said.

Growing up in Hickory, Payne was a dancer for a while, but when she had to choose between hoops and the dance studio basketball won out. Her mother, Amanda Forney, played basketball collegiately at Lees-McRae and West Virginia Tech, so her love of the game came naturally.

Even though she was a promising player, Payne didn’t play enough at the AAU level to receive much recruiting attention when she graduated from Hickory High School in 2011. She signed with La Salle because she liked the program and the coaching staff, and she thrived there, making the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team and earning the program’s Rookie of the Year award.

But Payne discovered that she wasn’t a big city girl, and she missed her family, so last fall Payne left the bustle of Philadelphia behind for Greenville.

Payne was ineligible to compete last season because of NCAA transfer requirements, but Macy knew from watching her new player in a practice setting that Jada Payne would soon be a name Pirate fans would want to know.

“Coaching her a year ago, in every practice, we understood and knew where she was going to be, but she’s also gotten stronger,” Macy said. “I think her game has continued to grow and get better. I think her mental development and her understanding of how we pay has allowed her to transition and make an immediate impact.”

Payne made an immediate connection with the players and coaches at ECU, she said, and she was impressed with the collective work ethic and commitment to excellence in the program. She and her teammates still have plenty to learn, because most of them are fairly new to the Pirates, but she sees positive change every time they take the floor together.

“We’re still learning the system and learning how to work together in that system, but we always play hard, and we’re really starting to mesh together,” she said. “I can see growth every day as we practice together and we learn how to play together.”

Macy is too wise to rest on any laurels with only seven games in the books, but the explosive start has been an excellent confidence builder for players like Payne, she said. When they return to competition after finals on December 12, and especially in a crucial home game against Ohio on December 20, Macy hopes that fans will show up to see a promising work in progress.

“I’m just really, really excited for the girls to have started the season so well, and we’re really not even close to playing our best basketball,” she said. “We’re still growing and we’re still developing, but Jada has been a huge part of it.”

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12/04/2013 04:28 AM