It can get confusing trying to understand the Payton family ties because there are three Gary Paytons. Even Phillips says he is uncertain of the family dynamics. Gary Payton II explains: He is one of three children born to Gary and Monique Payton — Gary II, Julian, Raquel. But there also is Gary Payton Jr. He was born a few months earlier than Gary Payton II by another mother and was raised in Chicago. Gary and Monique divorced a few months ago.
Gary Payton II and his two siblings moved around the country following his father's career, which included 13 years with the Seattle Supersonics and four more years divided among the Milwaukee Bucks, L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
Gary II tagged along with his father during his home-game routine, showing up at the arena two hours before tipoff, shagging balls during the shootaround, and hanging out in the locker room afterward. He struck up a friendship with the NBA stars and their kids.
"I didn't really ask my dad for much help with basketball," says Gary II, who talks to his father daily. "I wanted to do it on my own. But sometimes I ask him about specific things — like what kind of pass he would use to feed the post from the wing, or how he would guard a certain player."
Following his retirement, Payton settled his family in Las Vegas. Gary II was a late bloomer. He grew more than three inches to 6-foot-2 as a high school senior. Following his junior year, he started to get more serious about his approach to the game and began working with a trainer. Some recruiters gave him a sniff, but he couldn't meet the NCAA's academic eligibility requirements. He attended Westwind Prep school in Arizona to become eligible, but the NCAA subsequently reflagged the school and wouldn't accept Payton's credits there. That brought him to SLCC, where he has improved his game and his grades (a 3.7 grade point average last semester). He has retaken the classes that were voided at Westwind and is appealing the NCAA, hoping to play for Division I school in the future.
Meanwhile, at SLCC he has found teammates who share the challenge of having NBA bloodlines. The starting lineup includes JuWan Buchanan — nephew of former NBA star Shawn Kemp — and Tyrell Corbin — son of Jazz coach and former NBA player Tyrone Corbin. (Phillips also was an assistant coach at Westminster when Michael Stockton — son of Jazz great John Stockton — played on the team.)
"Ty and I have been through the same stuff growing up — people expecting us to do better and be like our fathers," says Payton. "They've got to understand we are our own persons."
Phillips concedes that the names of NBA progeny initially draw attention from coaches. He learned of Payton through an AAU coach.
"His dad was out of the country when we recruited Gary (II)," says Phillips. "He has been great. He has stayed out of it. Same with the Corbins and John Stockton when I was at Westminster. The dads were hands off. They understand."
As for Payton II's prospects, Phillips says, "He's athletic and long and has a good personality. He's been a good surprise. He was not heavily recruited. He has grown into his body and is becoming a better player. He's a bit of late bloomer. People were not sure what he was — a 2 or a 1 guard. We're still not sure. He's a really good kid. No big ego involved. You never hear him say, 'my dad did this … He wants to be his own person and that's a credit to him."
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