Payne Turns It Up On Defense
By Carolyn Linck, '11
The recent success of the Santa Clara men's basketball team – winning five of its last six games and currently in third place in the West Coast Conference – is largely due to their focus on the defensive end of the court. Senior Troy Payne, a candidate for WCC Defensive Player of the Year, is leading this charge for the Broncos, averaging 7.5 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 2.8 steals per game in WCC play. Responding to Bronco coach James Ware's challenge earlier in the season, Payne has definitely stepped up his defensive intensity.
"In January Coach Ware called me into the office and told me I really needed to turn it up on defense," said Payne. "Obviously I was already motivated, but I think that comment focused me. As a senior I know I need to set the right example for my team and leave everything out there on the court."
Payne, who had a career high six steals in games at San Diego, at Pepperdine and at LMU, believes the entire team has adopted his attitude towards defense recently.
"We talk about it in the locker room. Everyone knows how important it is for us to play well defensively, and what we all need to do," said Payne. "The past few games we've been trying to start out aggressively, attacking on defense. We want to make our opponent uncomfortable, take them out of their sets, force bad shots and use our defense to create offense."
Bronco coach Sam Scholl agrees that defense has been instrumental in the Broncos success this season.
"Our guys have really stepped up their urgency, their commitment and their trust in each other on the defensive end of the floor," said Scholl. "I think that charge has been led by two of our seniors, Troy and Ben, who are leading by example on the court right now."
As seniors, Payne believes he and teammate Ben Dowdell are responsible for setting the tone.
"Coach Keating pushes Ben and I as seniors and the best defenders on the team. The other guys look up to us in that way, so it's important we're doing the right thing."
Payne credits the underclassmen for following the seniors' example. He believes freshman point guard Evan Roquemore has especially made defense a priority.
"Evan really prides himself on his defense," explained Payne. "He has the attitude that, 'I'm not going to let this guy score on me.' He makes a point of locking the guy he's guarding down, taking him out of the game."
Payne also sees sophomore Kevin Foster as having a large impact defensively.
"Obviously Kevin is a scorer, but he has been huge for us on defense too," said Payne. "He makes great reads on the ball and comes up with a lot of crucial steals. In the Gonzaga game Kevin's defense was definitely key."
Payne says beating Gonzaga on Jan. 20, gave the Broncos confidence that they could play with anyone in the WCC.
"We knew that Gonzaga was the big dog in the conference, but we also knew going into the game that we could beat them," said Payne. "Beating them was important for the team and for the school. I was happy for the students, for the seniors who have been here for four years, to see us get it done in Leavey. We felt like if we can beat the Zags, we can take on anyone in the conference, and we were able to roll that victory into a five game winning steak."
After falling at USF last weekend the Broncos are looking to start a new winning streak against Saint Mary's, the current conference leader, Thurs. Feb. 10, at 8 pm.
"We're excited for this game," said Payne. "We know the students are going to be there to support us, it's going to be rocking in there. We didn't shoot very well in San Francisco, so we'll hope to do better offensively, but again, we need to focus on defense and use that to create points off turnovers and fast breaks."