Former Michigan State star and NBA first-round pick Adreian Payne, a key part of the Spartans’ 2014 Elite Eight run who made 94 starts in four seasons with the program from 2010-14, died Monday morning after being shot, authorities in Orlando, Florida, said. He was 31 years old.
The Orange County Sheriff’s department arrested Lawrence Dority on a warrant for First Degree murder in connection to the shooting of Payne. Payne was transported to the hospital after being shot, where he was pronounced dead.
Payne signed with Michigan State as a five-star prospect out of Dayton, Ohio, in 2010 over offers from Arizona, Cincinnati and Dayton. He averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Spartans in four seasons, including career-highs as a senior where he averaged 16.4 points and 1.3 assists.
After completing his four-year college career, Payne was drafted No. 15 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2014 NBA Draft. He spent one season with the franchise before settling in with the Minnesota Timberwolves for three seasons, primarily playing in the G League. In 2017-18, he played five games with the Orlando Magic.
Payne at Michigan State became a star on the court, where he twice earned All-Big Ten honors. He also developed a bond with Lacey Holsworth, a young Michigan State fan who had terminal cancer. Their friendship transcended the sport and their connection became a national story. She died in April 2014.
“Lacey is a special friend. She’s like a sister to me,” said Payne of “Princess Lacey” in 2014 weeks before Lacey’s death.
“Adreian is my brother,” said Lacey. “I just think of him when I smile.”
But off the court, Payne’s story was also complicated. He was waived by Orlando — his last stint in the NBA — after a story in 2018 from ESPN revealed he and teammate Keith Appling were investigated for sexual assault during their time in East Lansing. While neither faced charges in the case, he told police officers that he apologized to his accuser because he felt the woman felt she had been disrespected. Appling has said publicly that the incident was consensual.
In the wake of the 2018 ESPN report which detailed inaction and denial related to sexual assault cases at Michigan State — including an incident involving Appling and Payne — Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon resigned from her post. Athletic director Mark Hollis also resigned.
In the years after leaving the NBA, Payne continued his pursuit of a professional career, playing overseas with several teams. He was most recently with BC Juventus of the Lithuanian Basketball League.