“Walter is an interesting player,” Ferry said. “His size is unique but he is also a guy who is a very hard working and a young player. He’s only been playing for a few years. We felt like it was a good risk to take. We look forward to helping him develop going forward.”
The Hawks also traded for shooting guard Lamar Patterson, whom the Bucks took with the 48th pick, for a future second-round pick. Patters (6-foot-5, 212) played four seasons at Pittsburgh.
Ferry said he considers Payne a “stretch big” which will play right into the system established last season by first-year coach Mike Budenholzer. Paul Millsap set career-bests in 3-pointers made and attempted while playing power forward last season for the Hawks.
“He’ll be able to shoot and open the court up for our guards and everybody in general,” Ferry said. “That is obviously something we value.”
Another plus for Payne was the fact that he spent four seasons at Michigan State for coach Tom Izzo.
Payne, 22, was one of nine players in Michigan State history with 1,200 career points and 700 career rebounds. He is the school’s all-time leader in blocks with 141. He was named second-team All-Big Ten as a senior. Payne raised his scoring average every season.
“Michigan State guys are guys that we like,” Ferry said. “They play with a high level of competitiveness. It’s a program that we greatly respect. Obviously, he’s been raised the right way by Tom Izzo at Michigan State. (We are) excited to have him.”
Ferry was not ready to say Payne would have an immediate impact. He said that is something that will be determined in summer league and training camp. Payne had a pre-draft workout for the Hawks.
“I’m versatile,” Payne said. “I can guard different positions. I can play inside and out, defensively and offensively.”
Payne developed a well-documented relationship with young cancer patient Lacey Holsworth during his time at Michigan State. The two met two years earlier when she was hospitalized for cancer treatments and they developed a friendship.
The 8-year-old died from neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer, in April. Before her death, Payne brought Holsworth onto the court to help him cut down the net after the Spartans won the Big Ten tournament. She also attended the East Regional of the NCAA tournament and was Payne’s guest as he competed in the slam-dunk championship during the Final Four weekend.
The selection of Payne also fits the Hawks’ quest to add high character players to the organization.
“He is a good young man,” Ferry said. “We look forward to getting to know him even more.”