This isn't a story, I'm not a writer. Let us just share a memory.
Challenger's Boys Club on Vermont in South L.A., standing 5 stories tall, helping 2,000 kids daily. I remember when Russell Westbrook used to go there, the same time I was mentoring Gilroy Hemsley as I helped introduce Gil to Jamal Boykin of Fairfax.
How does Russell Westbrook relate to Ryann Payne, Erik? Be patient, you'll see.
Fast forward to 2005, there's great leadership at "The Club." Corey Dantzler, with help from club assistant Donny, was such a tremendous mentor to Russ. Corey used to ball at The Drew League and played for the U of Pacific. We knew Russ in common.
Russell at 17, was not "Rage Russell" then, just a cool kid from The Club. Russ's dream? Ball as a Bruin. Period.
Photo by Dave Keefer
Kent State offered, that wasn't Russ's destiny though. People that truly loved Russ, like Donny from the Club, Kerry Keating at UCLA and I all got together and supported Russ, getting him to UCLA. Jordan Farmar bounced to the L. so one Bruin leaves, another Bruin comes to rep Westwood.
Now fast forward to 2017. Get to know Ryann Payne - her personality is sweet, her game cold, her handles...too hot!
Ryann, is a junior who plays for Sierra Canyon. Her friend and one of her role models is Olympic running legend and all around cool person Allyson Felix. A-Felix has gotten to know Ryann, as I have. Ryann goes hard like a 5-8 girl version of a "LiL Russ Rage."
Felix says, "It has been a joy to watch Ryann grow and develop over the years. I love the undeniable passion she possesses and her strong leadership skills. I’m incredibly proud of the awesome player she is on the court and even prouder that she is a young woman of character and integrity. She embodies the fiery spirit of a champion and I’m so excited to continue to witness her journey."
I just fell over, please help me up. Now do you start to sense what Felix and I have been witness to?
Russell back at Leuzinger High, playing his heart out for a super dope coach, Chris " Ghetto Bird " Young and Ryann has mad speed like Russ did, ridiculous tight and loose handles, that power game.
Ryann reminds me so much of Russ, because of the drive within her, the skills that are blossoming in front of us all. Beautiful girl. Beautiful game.
What must be known is that Ryann cares nothing for the accolades, or to be hyped up. Ryann will tell you, " I credit my success to my faith."
Ryann is full of humility and genuinely feels that her talent is a gift from God. She plays for His glory, and no one else's. Tameka and Ryan are Ryann's awesome parents, they remind Ryann to appreciate every opportunity when she steps on the court.
I predict this upcoming AAU season that Ryann will be the EMBODIMENT of the Alicia Keys song Girl on Fire. #100. Ryann will play for West Coast Premier Girls EYBL on the AAU circuit.
Can I say for sure Ryann will be an elite high major, no, she needs to prove her destiny, one performance at a time.
What do I also predict? That many will realize that Ryann is also a serious student. She is the nurturing big sister to her 13 year old lil bro, Evan. She’s a dedicated daughter, and gets tremendous mentoring from her 84 year old great grandmother, who is a strong influence in her life. They talk often, and Ryann appreciates her wisdom.
Ryann adds, "I love to play ball, I always have. Jawhar Purdy and Taylor Statham of Ball Out are my trainers. They are working my game out, getting my pull up jumper on point, they care for me. I'm excited to play college ball and maybe be a pro someday."
Read our story on Taylor Statham here:
So what kind of kid is Ryann? She's a sweet person to the world, top notch student, joyful and bubbly, one of the hardest working kids I've ever seen lace em up. A credit to her fam, a credit to the game.
She does justice to girls basketball at Sierra Canyon, an esteemed academic and athletic institution. How so Erik?
I'm close with the former Westchester, Arizona, and NBA player Hassan Adams and his mom Connie. Hassan is my fav player ever, Connie is my heart. I've been talking to Connie tons lately about how I truly believe Ryann is an awesome person and baller, that Ryann could possibly play and keep up with the girls division of the Drew League, that Ryann could be a transcendent player at the next level, # 100.
Many college experts came to me, telling me that there is this “special player named Ryann P." Now that I've been to Ryann's games, I've become a believer.
With everything that I have, I'm using my talent evaluators lens, I've asked dozens of prep, college, and pro experts to see Ryann's game, help me be objective. I've been blessed to know and see truly transcendent pg's like Brandon Jennings:
Ryann is on B's level as a guard, she's that driven, she's that dope. #believe
Coming up in part 2 is much more on Ryann, including extensive comments from Sierra Canyon head coach Alicia Komaki.