Elfrid Payton has reached many of his life goals in the past year.
The Orlando Magic point guard was picked in the first round of the NBA draft and led all rookies in assists (533), steals (142) and triple-doubles (two) on his way to first-team all-rookie honors.
But the former John Ehret and Louisiana-Lafayette standout felt he had one more thing to accomplish before his first year in the NBA was complete.
“I knew I wanted to come back and give back to the community. That’s always been important to me,” he said. “I think it’s great to be able to help the kids that are growing up in the same place you grew up in and help them learn to love the game of basketball.”
Payton held his first free basketball clinic Sunday at the Alario Center for a group of more than 100 children ranging from ages 9 to 15. Payton said the camps he attended when he was younger helped him develop into the player he is today, and he hoped his camp can have the same effect.
“It’s just really exciting for me. This is my first time ever holding a camp like this,” he said. “My main thing I want the kids to walk away with is that you just have to work hard and take your craft seriously. That’s the only way you can get better.”
Along with family members, Payton got assistance from some of the players and coaches from local schools with whom he developed relationships growing up — including St. Augustine’s Devante Jones, McDonogh 35’s De’Jon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, Landry-Walker’s Lamont Berzat, Breaux Bridge’s Galen Alexander and Southern Lab’s Roderick Hayes.
“It’s great because, a lot of time when people make it, they don’t come back to their hometowns,” said Jarreau, a rising senior at McDonogh 35 who said he has known Payton since middle school. “I attended a lot of camps like this when I was younger. It helped me get better with my defense, ball handling and shooting a lot. It’s just a good thing for the kids.”
After hosting this camp and another he’s planning for Orlando, Payton will focus on learning a new system and coaching staff. The Magic hired Scott Skiles last month; Payton said he’s excited to see what the former Magic point guard will bring to the team as its new coach.
“I was blessed to come in and immediately get playing time as a rookie, and that’s why I think you saw the improvement as the season went on,” Payton said. “But I think adding coach Skiles and his playoff experience should help us a lot and bring us to the next level.”
Payton said his priority this offseason has been to take on more of a leadership role.
“I just need to become a better leader and a better shooter,” he said. “I think overall, I just need to do a better job of running the team and helping us get more wins.”