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Elfrid Payton (USA) - FIBA U19 World Championship

PRAGUE (FIBA U19 World Championship) - When it comes to stories of players making a national team, Elfrid Payton's journey to reaching the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship with the United States is a pretty special one.

USA center Jarnell Stokes admitted what many of his fellow training camp participants thought but may not have said when Payton showed up in Colorado Springs for USA tryouts.

"Going into this thing I had no idea who he was," said Stokes, one of the five USA players who took gold at the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

"But now I'm pretty sure everyone should know who he is."

USA coach Billy Donovan inserted Payton into the starting line-up from the first game on, and the 19-year-old guard responded superbly with nine points, seven rebounds and one assist, one steal and one block against Cote d’Ivoire.

Against China, Payton collected four points, four rebounds, two steals and one assist. In the USA's 115-47 win over Russia on Saturday to close out the Preliminary Round, he had six points and three steals in 14 minutes of play.

"He's been great. He's a great kid, very competitive," said Donovan.

"He's played a lot of positions - both guards and the small forward. I have really enjoyed coaching him because he's a competitor and he wants to win. Not only is he excited to be here, but he wants to contribute as best he can."

Payton himself is amazed to even be in Prague.

"I really owe my coach a lot for trying hard to get me here. I'm just grateful for it," said the 1.90m guard who will be entering his junior collegiate season at Louisiana Lafayette.

"It just makes for a great story, especially if we can come out here and win gold."

Payton's college coach Bob Marlin called Donovan and said the USA U19 coach should invite him to tryouts.

"I've had a relationship with Bob for a number of years and he apologized for calling so late but said 'there's a kid who I think could really help your team,'" Donovan recalled.

"We made some phone calls and we invited him. At the trials he played very well."

Payton said he was just grateful and blessed for the chance to showcase his skills.

"I knew that if I had the opportunity that I had a good chance to make the team," said the player with the most college experience of anyone on the USA squad.

"I was just excited about the opportunity to play with some of these guys and show what I have."

The fact that Stokes and others didn't know who he was actually gives Payton an additional push of motivation.

"It keeps me with a chip on my shoulder and makes me play even harder than if they did know me," he said.

"It just gives me even more energy to go out here and show that I belong here and that I can play here."

When asked about possibly winning a gold medal, Payton said: "That would be awesome - one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. It would mean so much."

Without a doubt, Payton is well on his way to becoming a more known commodity.


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