Luke Payne
Luke Payne

Luke Payne is the 14th person affiliated with the men’s basketball program to be inducted into the Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame. He is also the first to have played at least a portion of his career on the Division I level.

Payne was a member of the program from 2004-08, playing his first three seasons on the NCAA Division II level and his senior season in the NCAA Division I ranks. A selfless player throughout his career, Payne helped the Spartans reach the national stage in NCAA Division II and helped the program usher in the new era in Division I.

Payne averaged 8.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists as a freshman to help lead the team to the 2004-05 Peach Belt Conference regular season championship, marking the first league title for the program since the 1991-92 season. The year also gave the program its first appearance in the NCAA Division II Regionals in seven years as the then-Rifles picked up a win in the first round. He averaged 11.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a sophomore to help lead the Spartans to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament title and a second straight appearance in the NCAA DII Regionals in 2005-06. It marked the first time in school history that the Spartans won a PBC Tournament title. He finished his junior campaign with 11.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

Payne then helped lead the transition to Division I when he was the go-to player on the 2007-08 squad during the school’s first year playing on the Division I level and in the Atlantic Sun Conference. He was named to the all-tournament teams at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the State Farm Insurance Sun Bowl Tournament in El Paso, Texas. He also helped lead the team to its first-ever win over a major Division I program when it defeated SMU in Dallas. He finished the year averaging a career-best 14.9 points to go along with 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Payne ranks 10th all-time with 1,381 points, is in the Top 5 all-time in free throws made, three-pointers made and attempted and games started and in the Top 10 in assists, field goals attempted and games played. He was also a standout in the classroom and graduated from Upstate in 2009 with a 3.80 GPA as a Business Administration major. He was a first team academic all-district selection as a senior. He went on to play professional basketball in Australia and led the Lakeside Lightning to the Grand Final Championship in the Western Australia State Basketball League in 2009. He averaged a team-best 25 points per game.

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