Elfrid Payton is currently a point guard for the New York Knicks as well as the founder of his own organization, the Elfrid Payton Foundation. But before becoming a big name, he played for the Ragin’ Cajuns basketball team.
Elfrid started playing for Louisiana in 2011 and played until 2014. Payton received an offer from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette after playing high school ball at John Ehret High School. “I had two scholarship offers and I believe ULL was the best fit for me,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
With Louisiana, he accomplished great things. As a sophomore, he was the only player in the country to average 15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals, while also leading the Sun Belt Conference in assists and steals.
He received various awards such as the Beryl Shipley Leadership Award and team MVP. Payton was also named first-team National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District, first-team All-Sun Belt and second-team All-Louisiana by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
The standout award Payton received was the Lefty Driesell Award which acknowledged the National Defensive Player of the Year.
“When you play at a smaller school, you don't get the recognition or attention of some of the larger universities so I was shocked but I felt like I deserved it. I worked really hard and it paid off,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
Among all those accolades, Payton still had a few favorite moments while playing for the Ragin’ Cajuns. One of those moments was when he hit a game-winner his freshman year, and the others were related to his team as a whole.
“Seeing my teammate, Bryant Mbamalu, make UL history his senior year by scoring over 1,000 points. It was great to see because I feel like I helped contribute to it. And number one is when we won the conference championship in New Orleans” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
UL helped Payton develop into the person he is today in many ways.
“My experience at ULL was great because I learned responsibility. I grew up a lot on their campus and learned about being a man as it was my first time officially on my own,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
Before declaring for the NBA draft, Payton got to play for Team USA. This was one of his favorite moments throughout his career because it was his senior year and he won a gold medal with the USA team. He started in all nine games for the team and was also voted team tri-captain for the season with Team USA.
Payton had a great time and learned a lot from playing with Team USA.
“There were so many championship-caliber players on my team and on the teams we played against. Every player on our team was projected to go to the NBA so that was a great accomplishment for me,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
He never doubted himself, but during this time he realized he had the talent he needed to compete again in the NBA.
“It gave me confidence and confirmation that I really was one of the best in the game.”
Elfrid then went on to the NBA, forgoing his final year of college eligibility. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as the 10th overall pick for the 2014 NBA Draft then traded to the Orlando Magic. Payton’s nerves were running wild that day, but once he was picked, excitement took over.
“Leading up to it I was really nervous. After you get drafted, it’s hard to put into words. Once they announced I was drafted to the Philadelphia 76ers, I was just excited and ready to go get to work,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
Payton played for the Orlando Magic until 2018. He then played for the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans and the New York Knicks.
For the currently suspended season, after dealing with some injuries, he averaged 10 points per game, 4.7 rebounds and 7.2 assists.
He’s been playing for the NBA for several years now and on the court, his favorite moment was, “when I became the fifth player in NBA history to record a triple-double in five straight games against in the Dallas game last year and we got the win so it made it even more special,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
Off the court, Payton has done a lot as well. The NBA is known for its community efforts and Payton is no different. “When I was able to introduce youth to arts through one of my arts and culture program and I hosted an Open Mic Night where kids had a chance to showcase what they learned from the program to their parents,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion
The arts and culture program is one of the many Elfrid Payton Foundation programs, as is one of Payton’s other favorite moments off the court.
“Secondly, being able to host my charity kickball tournament which is a free open event every year in my hometown of Gretna. It’s a lot of fun with music, games, and some pretty competitive kickball. The community loves it and it’s something positive that brings everyone together,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
He started the Elfrid Payton Foundation with the mission to empower the youth in the areas of health, education and arts and culture through sustainable and engaging programs.
“I started the foundation because it’s important for me to give back to the community. I’ve been blessed over the years and I enjoy being able to help people,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.
With the NBA season being postponed, Elfrid has distinctive hopes for the rest of the year.
“At this point, I’d like to just get back on the court and hope the NBA season resumes soon. Off the court, I hope to continue to impact as many lives as possible in a positive way,” Payton wrote.
He said he wants to have a lasting impact, not one just for the moment.
“Next week, I’ll be donating 10,000 masks to help protect the lives of healthcare workers on the frontlines at local hospitals in New Orleans,” Payton wrote in a statement to The Vermilion.