By Nick Daschel | The Oregonian/OregonLive | Updated: Jun. 10, 2022, 1:30 p.m. | Published: Jun. 10, 2022, 10:39 a.m.
It goes beyond his prominent role with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
Payton is working on fulfilling a promise to his mother, Monique, as he’s within a few classes of completing his OSU undergraduate degree.
“I told myself and I also told my mom that I was going to do it. I’m just trying to keep my word,” Payton said by telephone from Boston.
Payton left Oregon State in 2016 following four years in college, including two at Salt Lake CC, 34 credits short of earning a degree in human development and family science.
Someday Payton vowed he’d be back, though most prominent on his mind was a professional basketball career. Bouncing around the NBA for several years, Payton eventually established a home with Golden State as a backup guard, averaging 17.6 minutes a game this season.
When the pandemic hit, an opportunity opened. Oregon State became much more involved in online classes, which suited Payton. He contacted OSU men’s basketball coach Wayne Tinkle, who put Payton in touch with people to advise him through the process.
“We want to see those guys finish and love the fact that he’s chipping away at it. A lot of guys at that age don’t understand that the air comes out of the ball eventually for all of us. He’s looking down the road,” Tinkle said.
Once Payton worked out the logistics, he began to pick off the classes need to graduate. He said there hasn’t been a particularly difficult course among the final classes. The online experience, Payton says, seems better than when he was on campus because he feels like there’s more one-on-one interaction with professors and others teaching courses.
Still, there have been challenges.
“The toughest part has been writing papers,” Payton said.
Fortunately, Payton’s sister Raquel is a teacher who knows her way around a paper. Raquel, who lives in San Antonio, talks and emails frequently with Payton when it comes to editing and giving advice on research papers.
Juggling the time commitment for online college with professional basketball hasn’t been difficult, Payton said. If there’s a conflict with a game or practice, he talks to the professor ahead of time to work out a solution.
Payton will wrap up his degree by mid-summer. Payton said he’s thought about walking through graduation ceremonies, but probably won’t. Friends from his OSU days are long gone from campus, so Payton says “I’ll probably just have them mail (the diploma) to my mom.”
Payton is the second Golden State player on the current roster to make a run at a college degree while playing. Stephen Curry recently earned his degree from Davidson, 13 years after he left the school. Payton said he’s heard teammates Moses Moody, a second-year guard, and rookie Jonathan Kuminga plan to work on their degrees.
“That’s pretty dope for them,” Payton said.
Payton admits he hasn’t always been the greatest student. Payton, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 8, wishes he had put more effort into the classroom when he was moving into his teenage years.
“Kind of held me back from doing the things I wanted to do, like basketball,” Payton said. “Eventually I started to apply myself, got the help I needed, got locked in and got it done.”
What Mom asks goes, but getting his degree is also personal to Payton.
“To have that on your resume, to say you have a degree from a big university like Oregon State, is important,” Payton said.
Payton, 29, hopes he has several more years remaining in the NBA. Once he’s finished playing basketball, Payton wants to use his diploma for more than a wall decoration. His sister, who teaches kindergarten, would someday like to open a school.
“I want to help her and be a resource for her. Maybe I can be around and help with the kids,” Payton said.