Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton going pro _lowres

Associated Press photo by DAVID J. PHILLIP -- Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton (2) led the Ragin’ Cajuns in scoring (19.2 ppg), assists (5.9) and steals (2.3).

Elfrid Payton, a lightly regarded recruit who rose to stardom at Louisiana-Lafayette, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to the NCAA tournament this season, is going pro.

Payton released a statement through the athletic department Monday saying he will forgo his final year of eligibility.

“This has been a long and engaging process for both me and my family. ... I sincerely want to say ‘thank you’ to my coaches, my teammates, and most importantly the great Ragin’ Cajun fans that have supported me during the last three seasons,” he said in the statement. “This has been a great three years where I’ve grown up, both on and off the court. I will be Cajun forever. Thank you for everything.”

Payton, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard from John Ehret High, Payton averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists this season for the Cajuns, who rallied to defeat Georgia State in an 82-81 overtime thriller in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

They threw a scare into Creighton before losing 76-66 in the NCAA round of 64.

Payton also played on the gold-medal-winning USA Under-19 team last summer.

Payton is projected to be a late first-round or early second-round selection in the NBA draft.