Adreian Payne, who played three seasons for the Timberwolves after a standout career at Michigan State, has died at age 31 from a gunshot wound.
The Orange County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office released a statement Monday saying deputies responded to reports of a shooting at 1:34 am in Orlando. Payne had been shot and was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The alleged shooter, 29-year-old Lawrence Dority, was arrested on a warrant for first degree murder and taken to the Orange County Jail, the sheriff’s office said.
At 6-foot-10 forward, Payne was a first round pick (15th overall) of the Atlanta Hawks in 2014 after four seasons at Michigan State, where he was All-Big Ten twice.
He bounced around the NBA and the G League and then played overseas, winning titles in Greece in 2018 and 2019. He was with Juventus Utena in Lithuania last season.
Payne spent three of his five NBA seasons with the Wolves, playing in Minnesota from 2015 to 2017 following a trade from the Hawks for a first-round draft pick, which Atlanta used to select Kevin Huerter 19th overall in 2019. In 99 games with the Wolves (24 starts), Payne averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds.
“We are devastated to learn of Adreian Payne’s passing,” the Wolves said in a statement. “His family members and friends remain in our thoughts and prayers.”
The Orlando Magic waived Payne in January 2018, after he was part of an ESPN report that detailed sexual assault allegations against former basketball and football players at Michigan State.
He was known at Michigan State for his friendship with a young cancer patient named Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old he met during a hospital visit in 2013. Holsworth helped the team cut down the nets when it won the Big Ten tournament that season , and died a month later. Payne spoke at a memorial service for her in 2014.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo also released a statement which read, in part, “[Payne] will long be remembered by Spartan fans for his kind heart, as his friendship and genuine bond with Lacey Holsworth touched the nation. Following graduation, Adreian regularly returned to East Lansing. In doing so, he developed and strengthened relationships with players from all eras.
“I’ve heard from many of those players today, each one experiencing heartbreak, and each one with their own fond memory of Adreian.”