Cameron Payne and Isaiah Canaan have set a great example for what’s possible in Murray, Kentucky. The future looks bright.
Sitting in the parking lot of the only craft coffee shop in Murray, Kentucky I’m reminded of the days when I cleaned up the sweat from the floor of Racer Arena. That was in the days before they had the CFSB Center at the heart of Murray State Athletics. Racer Arena is a small place, with a similar feel to Cameron Indoor Stadium holding the pulse of Duke Basketball.
These small stadiums in college sports harness an atmosphere that can’t be reproduced in a large, upscale arena, but I guess we have to sacrifice certain things in effort to move forward. Regardless, it’s a little sad when another one of these stadiums get pushed to the back of the line. Much like the Cardinal’s old Busch Stadium.
It’s never been about the building itself, it’s about the history that happened within them. While Murray State has long been a really good basketball program when one considers the budget and student population of the school, not to mention the other schools in the state it must compete with for talent, it’s easy to forget just how good they are.
The latest to hit the block has been Cameron Payne, he’s also the only 1st round pick to ever come out of the school. And while his career has yet to be played out, he couldn’t have landed in a better place with better examples of how to play the game with 110% effort all the time. In light of this recent major victory for Murray State basketball, I think it’s appropriate to do a recap of all the NBA Draft picks that have come out of this emerging basketball program, as well as how a native Murrian would like to see this program move forward.
Historical Draft Picks and their years in the NBA
Cameron Payne – 2015, 1st Round
Isaiah Canaan – 2013, 2nd Round (still active)
Marcus Brown – 1996, 2nd Round (3 years with Portland)
Popeye Jones (likely the most prominent player from Murray) – 1992, 2nd Round (11 Years with Houston and Dallas)
Jeff Martin – 1989, 2nd Round (3 years with LA Clippers)
Mike Lahm – 1985, 5th Round (Cut by the Pistons)
Glenn Green – 1983, 6th Round (cut by the Nuggets)
Ray Hooker – 1979, 9th Round (cut by the Wizards)
Mike Muff – 1978, 10th Round (cut by the Warriors)
Larry Moffett – 1977, 2nd Round (1 year with Houston)
Grover Woolard – 1977, 6th Round (1 year with LA Lakers)
Les Taylor – 1973, 9th Round (cut by the Cavaliers)
Hector Blondet – 1971, 5th Round (cut by Portland)
Ron Johnson – 1971, 9th Round (cut by the Wizards)
Claude Virden – 1970, 9th Round (cut by Seattle)
Dick Cunningham – 1968, 2nd Round (7 years with the Suns)
Herb McPherson – 1967, 5th Round (cut by the Rockets)
John Duncan – 1967, 10th Round (cut by the Rockets)
Stew Johnson – 1966, 3rd Round (cut by the Knicks)
Quitman Sullins – 1958, 5th Round (cut by the Lakers)
Howard Crittendon – 1956, 10th Round (cut by the Knicks)
That’s a total of 21 players drafted into the NBA from Murray State. If we are comparing that to schools like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and various other major programs, it’s not a lot, but for widely unknown school, it’s pretty solid.
It’s impossible to say whether Cam Payne will have a Popeye Jones career or a start like Isaiah Canaan, but either way it’s a great thing for the program. Especially for him to have gone in the first round. I think it’s a testament to really good basketball players going to schools where they know they will get major playing time.
If you’re not a top 50 recruit out of high school then it’s difficult to justify going to a program like Kentucky or Duke because you’ll be constantly fighting for a 6th man position unless there is an injury. And while you can still make it to the NBA on this track, you have to look at players like Daniel Orton from the 2011 Kentucky class. Orton was a great player, but he didn’t play a ton and he didn’t see his chances increasing much in the coming year because he was going to compete again with Terrance Jones, so he opted to go into the draft, probably before he was really ready to do so.
Many people argue that a player shouldn’t leave for the NBA before he’s either completed his degree or matured into the player he can be. I disagree, most of these players dream of being in the NBA and draft stock is such a fragile concept. If Cam Payne would have stayed another year at Murray, maybe his draft stock could have increased, but it’s equally as likely (if not more so) that it could have fallen and he’d have gotten drafted in a lower round, or not at all.
I say go out and take the leap when the time is best, and for Cam Payne, that time was this year. He got a first round pick and his contract will be fantastic because of it. Not only that, but he’ll be playing with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, where else would he get that kind of mentorship?
Good for Cameron Payne, good for Murray State. Keep digging in Racers, good times are ahead.
Join our Community at The Good Men Project Sports Facebook Page!