Payne loving Pacers challenge

Meekness Payne (Ljubica Vrankovic) 407984_07

Tara Murray

Late last year, American Meekness Payne had only heard of one basketball team in Australia, the Australian Boomers.

Having just finished college, playing overseas was on his radar when his manager mentioned about a club keen on him in Australia.

After a couple of conversations he agreed to join the Whittlesea Pacers for the Big V men’s division 1 season.

“I graduated college last May and I knew that I was going to end up playing overseas, I didn’t know where I would end up,” he said.

“My agent actually connected me with [Pacers coach] Des [Radoslovic].

“He got us on the phone and we chatted and I liked his coaching philosophy and that’s how the ball got rolling.”

Payne had previously visited Australia when he was in grade 6, but had never been to Melbourne.

He said he was loving his time with the Pacers so far.

“The club has been treating me well,” he said. “Everyone has been welcoming.

“It has been good. They were at the top of the ladder last season, in div 2. They already had the pieces, Des, when we were on the phone said that they needed one more piece which was me to really make an impact.

“Everything is falling into place.”

Payne said playing in the Big V was a bit different from playing at college. He said it was a pretty good standard.

“It’s a good level to really just hone your skills and work on your game,” he said.

“I’ve used a lot of the games to work on things I wasn’t able to do in college, cause in college you’ve got to play to your coaches system a lot, out here, able to do things more freely.”

Payne said he’d been happy with the way he was playing. He averaged nearly 26 points per game, third most in the division.

As a team, he said they had great chemistry which was showing in the results.

As well as playing, Payne has been involved in the Pacers junior programs.

“I help out running Aussie Hoops, school clinics at certain schools around the northern suburbs,” he said.

“I also help with the domestic and development, the kids that play domestic and working towards rep, help develop them on Fridays.

“I started dabbling in that back home. Since I’ve been here I’ve upped it and I feel like it is one of my gifts.”

With a top two spot at the midpoint of the season, Payne said they had big goals this year.

“I think we can win it this year,” he said.

“We need to take care of business these last five games. We want to end the season strong and be ready for play off.”