Steve Payne had an unfortunate start to his junior season. His father passed away suddenly in October, bringing his whole team to rally around him in support. Now, he is rallying them. Injuries to Theo Henry and Matt O’Connor, along with star Jack Forrest’s illness, has put a lot of pressure on the junior point guard to carry the team. He has responded remarkably. Payne is averaging 19.2 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals per game. He scored 21 points with 9 assists in front of Temple coach Fran Dunphy, as the Aces (14-3) beat Neshaminy by six points in Sunday’s final leg of the two-day Kobe Bryant Boosters Classic. Payne’s driving ability has always been known, as has his athleticism. This season, his outside shot has taken him to another level.


“The key to my improvement was definitely my shooting ability," he said. "Freshman year, I wasn’t really such of a shooting threat to opposing teams. I started to get tons of shots up everyday and just started working on my craft. With the help of coaches like Doug Young rebounding countless balls for me, and me being able to shoot the three, it really makes defenders step out on me which lets me get into the lanes to find open teammates.”


Payne has noticed the Eagles going to the Super Bowl with several of their standout players sitting on the sidelines. Most notably quarterback Carson Wentz and lineman Jason Peters. He feels “The next man up” mentality has worked at Lower Merion, too. Already players such as Harrison Klevan, who had a career-high 25 versus Neshaminy, Zack Slogoff, Jared Robinson and Josh Martin, have filled the voids. “After Theo got hurt, we built up this mentality of the next man up,” he said. “And a few guys have really stepped unto the challenge which has helped lead to our hot start. We are playing well and I hope it continues.”


Chris Arcidiacono led Neshaminy with 27 points with his parents cheering him on. They had just returned from Chicago where older brother Ryan scored his first 8 NBA points for the Bulls. “We’re excited for him,” said Chris. “This was a good game but Lower Merion just pulled away at the end.”


Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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