In case you hadn't noticed, Adreian Payne appears to be a brand new man.
Yes, he's added some muscle from a season ago, but that's not what I'm referring to his physical appearance.
I'm talking about his new found aggression and confidence, which seems to be at an all time high. And lately, that tiger-like aggression been evident in his offensive game.
Did you see his turn-a-round, fade-a-way jumpers against Nebraska? Silky smooth.
Follow up flush? Electric.
And how about the latest Adreian Payne sensation? One dribble, two steps, slam. And yes, he starts that move outside of the 3-point arc. That move is sure to have NBA scouts drooling.
So what's with the new attitude of Adreian Payne?
"I think I've been taking the game more seriously, but (previously) I just hadn't been playing with the same passion and energy," Payne said following practice on Monday. "You know, I would get tired and not try fight through it. And now, I get tired and I try to fight through it."
It's been a mental evolution for Payne, who has struggled to play extensive minutes due to a lung abnormality. His lungs are not as big as they should be for a man who stands 6-feet-10, so he's had to learn how to take shorter breaths, which in turn, has allowed him to play longer stretches.
Fighting through that obstacle is a physical limitation, but it's something he's begun to overcome thanks to his positive approach. It's an approach that has bled over into the X's and O's of the sport he loves.
"I think I have grown mentally, you know, as far as picking up (opposing) defenses. Offensively, I think the game has felt like it has slowed down a little bit more too."
Payne's improvement and increased versatility hasn't been lost on his teammates either. Front-court mate Derrick Nix admires the work Payne has put into his game and his ever-evolving offensive repretoire. Nix agrees that Adreian's intesified passion for the game has been the key.
"I feel like Payne, he does love basketball," Nix said of his close fried. "You know, that's his livelihood."
"I feel like he's less goofy. You know, he used to play around, and now, I feel like he isn't playing around, he's been taking (the game) much more seriously than usual."
Payne's renewed focus, has paid off for MSU. So much so, that he appears to be the x-factor for the team.
19 times, Payne has scored 10-plus points in a game. MSU's is 17-2. This season, they're 8-0.
But his impact doesn't stop with scoring. When Adreian grabs 10-plus rebounds in a game, the Spartans are 6-1 in his career. This season, they're 4-0.
So what happens when you combine the best of both worlds? The Spartans are a perfect 4-0 when Payne posts a double-double, three of which have come this season.
Michigan State is seeing the results of Adreian Payne's renewed passion and focus. High flying dunks, defensive rejections, improved free throw shooting and an increased in minutes have all resulted. If he continues his ascent, the Spartans will rise as well and end the conference season right where they expect to be.
PENN STATE PRIMER
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-WATCH what the Spartan players are saying as they gear up for Penn State. (WATCH HERE)
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