Kentucky men’s basketball associate head coach Kenny Payne has been named to the A STEP UP Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
A STEP UP, Inc., was founded by Johnny and Felicia Allen and provides professional development designed to help coaches discover new coaching insights and develop strategies, techniques and tactics to help them reach their full coaching potential.
Payne is joined in the 2020 class by Bill Brock (Baylor), Al Brown (Duke), Bill Guthridge (North Carolina), Karl Hobbs (Rutgers), Jolette Law (South Carolina), Tommy Lloyd (Gonzaga) and Bob Starkey (Texas A&M).
The Class of 2020 will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on May 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the Symposium’s Hall of Fame Induction breakfast. A STEP UP, Inc., became the first to exclusively recognize NCAA men and women’s assistant college coaches with the distinction of Hall of Fame honor.
The A STEP UP Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame Committee received recommendations from individuals, coaches, the media and other professionals across the nation. Voting was based on the candidates track record of success, outstanding and significant contributions to the game as well as high character, integrity and respect among colleagues.
UK’s associate head coach is certainly worthy of this honor. In his 10th season with the Wildcats, Payne has helped the Cats to four Final Fours. This season, Kentucky owns a 25-6 overall record and captured the regular-season Southeastern Conference title.
Payne is well known in the basketball community and among current and former players as a players-first coach. His relationships with players, his straightforward and direct approach with the kids, and his legendary workouts have helped build Final Four contenders at Kentucky and mold countless NBA Draft selections.
He has been nationally recognized for his work with Kentucky’s big men — and rightfully so — but he’s played an instrumental role in UK’s success with players of all different positions. Most notably, Payne’s development with Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns helped the Kentucky freshmen go No. 1 overall in their respective drafts with each team advancing to the Final Four.
Payne was also a major part in the development of UK big men Nerlens Noel (sixth in 2013 NBA Draft), Julius Randle (seventh pick in 2014 NBA Draft), Willie Cauley-Stein (sixth in 2015 NBA Draft), Skal Labissière (28th in 2016 NBA Draft), Bam Adebayo (14th in 2017 NBA Draft), Kevin Knox (ninth in 2018 NBA Draft) and PJ Washington (12th in 2019 NBA Draft). He also played important roles in the development of guards De’Aaron Fox (fifth in 2017 NBA Draft), Malik Monk (11th in 2017 NBA Draft), Tyler Herro (13th in 2019 NBA Draft) and Keldon Johnson (29th in 2019 NBA Draft).
Nationally recognized as one of the game’s top recruiters, Payne’s ability to recruit has continued to flourish at Kentucky. He played a key part in Calipari’s last 10 recruiting classes. The 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017 classes all ranked No. 1 in the country, and every class has been in the top three, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. The 2013 class consisted of a record six McDonald’s All Americans and was heralded as one of the best classes ever assembled by many pundits. The 2017 class was rated as the best ever by RSCI.
Payne hasn’t just helped recruit players to Kentucky, he’s also helped develop them into stars. UK has had a player selected in the NBA Draft lottery in all nine drafts he’s been at Kentucky and had multiple picked in the first round every year.
Kentucky has advanced to the Final Four in four of the nine seasons in which Payne has been on staff, including in 2015, when, in his first year as an associate head coach, Payne helped guide the Wildcats to the first 38-0 record in college basketball history.
Payne’s first season as part of the Kentucky staff came during the 2010-11 season as the Wildcats advanced to the Final Four, the first in the Calipari era.
Kentucky then captured the national championship during Payne’s second season and Davis was the recipient of numerous national player of the year accolades.
Payne was instrumental in helping lead UK back to the national title game in 2014 behind the play of Randle, an All-American forward who broke freshman records in rebounding, double-doubles and free throws made.
Prior to joining Kentucky’s staff, Payne spent five seasons on the staff at Oregon. The Ducks made two NCAA Tournaments with Payne on staff and also claimed a Pacific-10 Tournament title. Three players were selected in the NBA Draft.
The Wildcats being their quest for a 32nd SEC Tournament championship on Friday. UK will play the winner of Alabama-Tennessee on Friday at 1 p.m. ET. The game will air live on ESPN from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
“As a coach, to see Kenny honored as a Hall of Famer is so rewarding to me because he’s about these kids. He’s not afraid to tell them the truth, he’s not afraid to get on them and coach them, he’s not afraid to listen, and he’s not afraid to spend extra time with them in the gym to help them work on their craft. He makes it about them. Kenny shuns the spotlight, and yet isn’t it funny how those kinds of people – the ones who care only about their work – are the ones we honor at the end of the day. And let me just say this: When he gets the opportunity to run his own program, he’ll be a Hall of Famer there, too. Congratulations to Kenny on this well-deserved honor.” – John Calipari
‑ GO CATS –
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