Elfrid Payton didn’t remain a Philadelphia 76er long enough for one of their caps to muss up his prodigious hairdo.
Minutes after being chosen by Sixers with the 10th pick in the NBA draft Thursday, the former Louisiana-Lafayette standout was dealt to Orlando in exchange for Croatian Dario Saric, whom the Magic took two picks later.
The trade was made official near the end of the first round.
But it was a poorly kept secret.
“Within a few seconds, I had gotten a text from the Magic saying, ‘We’ve got him,’ ” said UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin, who was at the Barklays Center in Brooklyn for the draft along with Payton’s parents. “We knew they were very serious about wanting Elfrid.”
Serious enough to have spent more than three hours in Lafayette recently talking with the Ragin’ Cajuns coaches and other members of the basketball staff.
Payton, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound point guard, is UL-Lafayette’s highest picked player since Andrew Toney went to Philadelphia in 1980 and first first-rounder since Kevin Brooks in 1991.
Payton is the first Louisiana player to go in the first round since fellow West Banker Greg Monroe, who prepped at Helen Cox, in 2009.
“The draft is fluid thing and Elfrid is someone going into the draft we had targeted,” Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan said. “We loved his competiveness and toughness.
“We love his desire to want to play defense and compete at that end of the floor. As the draft started to fall and shake out, we felt it was worth it to acquire him with some of the assets we have.”
Along with the rights to Saric, Orlando sent a protected first-round pick in 2017 and a 2015 second-round pick to the 76ers.
Payton’s selection Thursday capped a meteoric rise up the draft charts for a relatively unknown junior who came on the scene last summer when he played on USA Basketball’s championship U-19 team.
But Orlando had him on its radar early on.
“They first called me last December,” Ehret coach Al Collins said. Sunday night, Elfrid’s dad told me there was no way he was going to get past No. 12.”
In Orlando, Payton will come in as backup for veteran Jameer Nelson.
But Collins said that situation might not last long.
“Elfrid is not the kind of guy who will settle for just being a quiet teammate,” he said. “Some how, some way, he’s going to find a way to get a lot of playing time. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”
Indeed, after being selected, Payton told ESPN that he considered himself the best point guard in the draft.
“I can run my team, play defense and create for other people,” he said.
As it was, Payton was the third point guard chosen, after Australian Dante Exum, who went to Utah at No. 5 and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma City who went to Boston one pick later.
The Magic, which also had the No. 4 pick, had interest in Exum and Smart, but instead took Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.
Then, in an agreement with Philadelphia made just before the Sixers pick, Orlando wound up with the player it wanted while Philadelphia got a player it was willing to wait two years for to actually have in uniform because of Saric’s commitment to a league in Turkey.
“We had a good feeling about Orlando,” said Elfrid Payton Sr., who’s a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer. “But you never know.
“I’m just real proud of him. He did all of the work to put himself in this position.”
Payton is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 3.6 turnovers for the Ragin Cajuns’ Sun Belt Conference tournament champions.
He shot 50.9 percent, but that was considered more of a result of his being able to get to the rim (7.8 free-throw attempts per game). From 3-point range, Payton hit only 25.9 percent.
But it was defense where Payton made his mark. He was named the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s long-armed and can really get the steal and the deflection,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “He’s got to work in his shooting, but he can really get up and down the court.”
The No. 10 pick used by the Sixers to take Payton was one of the two the Pelicans dealt to Philadelphia last year in the Jrue Holiday trade.