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Adreian Payne, first-round pick in 2014 NBA draft, dies at 31 in Florida shooting

The former Michigan State University standout gained national attention not only for his play on the court but also because of a bond he formed with a young cancer patient off it.
Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the floor for Senior night with Lacey Holsworth, a 8-year-old from St. Johns Michigan who is battling cancer, after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes on Feb. 6, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich.
Adreian Payne of the Michigan State Spartans at Senior Night with Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old from St. Johns, Mich., in East Lansing, Mich., on Feb. 6, 2014.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images file

Adreian Payne, the former NBA first-round draft pick whose friendship with a young cancer patient during his senior season at Michigan State University made national headlines in 2014, was fatally shot Monday morning in Central Florida, authorities said.

He was 31.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed Payne's death in a statement.

Deputies responded shortly after 1:30 a.m. to a shooting in the 2500 block of Egret Shores Drive, the agency said in the statement. Payne was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The suspect, Lawrence Dority, 29, stayed at the scene and was interviewed by homicide detectives, the sheriff's office said. He was arrested on a first-degree murder warrant and was taken to the county jail, the agency said.

It was not clear Monday afternoon whether Dority had retained an attorney.

No other information was immediately released by the sheriff's office. Relatives of Dority and Payne could not be reached for comment Monday.

At Michigan State, Payne gained national attention not only for his play on the court but also because of a bond he formed with a young cancer patient off it.

Payne met Lacey Holsworth, 8, of St. Johns, Michigan, during one of her hospital stays two years earlier.

Payne scooped up Lacey, who wore a blonde wig, and carried her around the court while he was honored on Senior Night. He did it again in Indianapolis after Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament that season. She died in April 2014.

The Orlando Magic waived Payne in January 2018 after ESPN detailed sexual assault allegations against former players at Michigan State. Payne was never charged.

After Michigan State, where he averaged 16 points and seven rebounds a game during his senior season, Payne was selected with the 15th pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks.

Payne, who was 6-foot-10, was known as a versatile player who could play on the interior as well as shoot from long range.

In addition to his time with the Hawks, Payne had stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and in the NBA G-League.

Payne also played professionally overseas, according to the Detroit Free Press, which was first to report his death. He was a member of Panathinaikos in Greece, winning the Greek Basketball Cup in 2019. 

He last played with Juventus Utena in Lithuania, the newspaper reported.

ESPN personality Jay Bilas remembered Payne in an online tribute.

“So sad to hear that former Michigan State star Adreian Payne passed away at the age of 31. AP was an outstanding player for Tom Izzo, and befriended Lacey Holsworth through her battle with cancer. RIP Adreian Payne,” he wrote in a tweet.

Former Ohio State University basketball standout Jared Sullinger also tweeted his condolences.

“Hate the news i received this morning…. Rest Easy to my brother/Teammate @Adreian_Payne," Sullinger wrote.