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Shooting guard was a priority in early signings for Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team has only three seniors and all play the shooting guard position.
Southeast coach Dickey Nutt took steps toward replenishing that spot during the NCAA's early signing period that ended Wednesday.
Signing with Southeast were Martavian Payne, a 6-foot-2 senior combo guard at Madison Prep High School in St. Louis; and 6-5 wing Darrian Gray from Lake Land (Ill.) Community College.
Nutt was only able to speak publicly Monday about Gray because the university had not yet certified all of Payne's paperwork.
Payne averaged 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals per game as a junior last year for Imagine Prep in St. Louis, which has since closed. He averaged 20.4 points and made 50 3-pointers as a sophomore.
Payne missed several weeks of last season with a knee injury but returned in time to help Imagine Prep earn its first state final four berth. The Bears beat Sikeston in the Class 4 quarterfinals.
Payne's high school coach, Tony Irons, said recently he believes Southeast landed one of the St. Louis area's premier players.
"I think SEMO is getting a very good player. He's been under the radar some, but I think he's one of the best players in the St. Louis area," said Irons, who added Payne also had received interest from the likes of Wichita State and Missouri State. "He has a college body. He weighs about 180, 185 pounds. He's strong, athletic and has a great first step.
"He can shoot the ball well. He's got a lot of range with his shot. He's a hard worker. If he continues to progress, he can be a heck of a player. He has a good upside."
Payne reportedly has academic issues that put his Division I eligibility for next season in question.
Gray averaged nine points and five rebounds at Lake Land last year. He spent his freshman season at Navarro (Texas) Junior College, averaging six points and three rebounds.
Gray has no more eligibility remaining at Lake Land, where he is finishing up his school work this semester. He will transfer to Southeast for the second semester and will be able to practice with the Redhawks beginning Dec. 15 although he won't be eligible until next season.
According to a release, Gray was also recruited by Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Murray State and Tennessee State, among others.
"He's a big guard who is very athletic and is a very, very good shooter. He can play the two [shooting guard] or the three [small forward]," Nutt said. "We're excited that he'll have one semester with us before starting his junior year. That's an added bonus for us."
Gray earned all-region honors at Southwind High School in Memphis, Tenn., where he averaged 24 points and six rebounds as a senior.
Gray continues Southeast's pipeline to the basketball hotbed of Memphis, which produced current Southeast players Tyler Stone, Nino Johnson and A.J. Jones.
"Memphis has been good for us," Nutt said. "We feel like it's the best basketball city in the south."
Southeast still has at least two more available scholarships for next season.
Reese on track
Nutt said freshman point guard C.J. Reese is still on track to join the Redhawks for the second semester and be eligible beginning Dec. 15.
Reese was not approved academically by the NCAA Clearinghouse for the first semester and never enrolled at Southeast because, under NCAA regulations, he could not receive athletic aid while academically ineligible.
Nutt said it's still to be determined whether Reese, since he will have a lot of catching up to do from a basketball standpoint, will be redshirted in order to preserve his four years of eligibility.
"It's going to be a wait-and-see mode on him," Nutt said of the ultimate decision to play Reese this season or redshirt him. "If we feel like he's ready and he can help us, we won't wait [until next season to play him]."