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MURPHYSBORO - Dre'Shean Payne has come a long way during the past two years at Murphysboro High School.

It's not easy for a teenager to move from one school to another during the middle of high school, but it could have been especially difficult going from Carbondale to longtime rival Murphysboro. But it really paid off for Payne.

He was just another player when he came to Murphysboro, but his practice-makes-perfect attitude made him the standout that he is today.

The lone senior for the Red Devils averaged 17 points per game, led his team to a berth in the Class 2A super-sectional and an undefeated run in conference action, and he's The Southern Illinoisan's Boys Prep Basketball Player of the Year.

"The thing I noticed about him when he first got here is that he was a hard-nosed and tough player who was really going to battle," said Murphysboro coach Daryl Murphy. "But I thought he was an aver-age shooter, and I thought he couldn't take people off the dribble, but that has all changed now."

Payne has a strong love for the game of basketball and continues to push himself until he gets to his desired destination.

"I thought Dre'Shean, in four months right in front of my face, went from an average shooter to the shooter that you know him as now," Murphy said. "It was his work ethic that was so amazing. In the fall I'd be leaving school, and he'd be in here shooting 400 3's on our shooting machine."

Murphysboro and Carbondale have battled in many sports for a long time, and that fact wasn't lost on Payne. He simply left a situation that didn't work for him and moved to a new environment that ended up serving him well.

"When I came over here they embraced me, and we hit it off right there," Payne said. "We had fun over here that first summer just hanging out and messing around. The parents and everyone just em-braced me when I came over here, and I really appreciated it."

Payne is the first one to credit his teammates for the great season (29-3) that Murphysboro had. He went down the line, one by one, and mentioned the five key players that helped the squad set a school record for wins.

The highs and lows for Payne during the season were quite drastic. He experienced a lot of great victo-ries and only three losses. But it was obvious how much the game affected him.

The Red Devils were 14-0 when they fell to Carbondale on Jan. 5, and Payne was very emotional after that game. But Murphysboro bounced back and defeated the Terriers at the Superman Classic in Massac County in late January.

"It means a lot to me, because I really care about these things," Payne said.

There were plenty of great times for Payne this season, and one of them came after a hard-fought vic-tory over Massac County in the championship game of the Carterville Class 2A Regional. Payne came out of the locker room, did a short interview, and proceeded to climb the stairs back to the court to greet the student section that was still celebrating the victory.

He simply smiled, waved the sectional plaque in delight and went back downstairs.

In the end, it all came down to Payne refusing to accept being a mediocre player and challenging him-self to become a great shooter, despite the fact that he was defended closely by every team he played against.

"It wasn't that hard because my dad and coach Murphy always told me to move without the ball," Payne said. "If I had a chance to get a shot off it was a relief. It was really about concentration and being able to lift off against your opponent."

Payne, a 6-foot-1 guard, made 65 triples this season and shot a stunning 60 percent from inside the arc. The latter number is something that 7-footers routinely shoot over much smaller opponents in prep basketball.

Collegiate basketball is what's next for Payne, and he'll be working out with the Southeastern Illinois College squad very soon and take it from there, but he is still undecided on where he wants to go.

The Murphysboro senior is just happy that it all turned out for the best.

"It wasn't a bad choice to come over here after all," Payne said. "They treat you well over here, and they treat you with respect."

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