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Published on July 12th, 2015 | by Alec Lewis

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Elfrid Payton Elite breeds star in first Peach Jam Finals

North Augusta, S.C. — You knew Harry Giles. You knew Jayson Tatum. Those two play Sunday, actually, in a semi-final matchup of heavyweights. You now know Marvin Bagley, the 6’10″ sophomore that recorded three double-doubles in the 16E division at the Peach Jam. And everybody will soon know Ja’Vonte Smart, the rising sophomore point guard from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Elfrid Payton was drafted No. 10 in the 2014 draft by the Orlando Magic. His thoughts became focused on the sunshine state but his heart remained in the Bayou of Louisiana. His drive to help grow the game and his connection with Nike bred Elfrid Payton Elite, the Nike EYBL AAU program.

In the first year of its existence, Payton’s squad qualified for the culmination of the EYBL at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina.

“My whole big thing with this is I want to get kids around some the people I grew up with, let them meet some of the people who helped me get to where I am,” said Payton earlier this year to Nola.com at a basketball clinic in Westego, Louisiana. “Everyone is not going to the NBA but some of these kids are going to use basketball to go to college and get a free education. They can use basketball to go to other parts of the world. You never know where basketball can lead you. By the grace of God I have been able to go to Spain, China, and Czech Republic and see other parts of the world through basketball. I’m just trying to help them make that bridge.”

With Payton looking on this past week in Augusta, a point guard with a first step like Payton’s and a hairdo that also looks the part took the national spotlight for the first time. Smart, a 2018 point guard who’s made waves in Louisiana, found the bucket in a variety of ways against the ProScholars Athletics Cardinals of New York. Floater, check. Blow-by, check. Three-pointer off the bounce, check. In front of LSU Tigers coach Johnny Jones, UConn Huskies coach Kevin Ollie and an array of coaches alike, Smart carried Elfrid Payton Elite on his back by scoring 26 points on 8-18 shooting. Was the defensive intensity there? Maybe not as much as one would hope, but, his instincts stood out with a couple of counted deflections and such so there’s room to grow there.

“The EYBL is incredible because I’m younger than a lot of people here and there’s a lot of competition,” said Smart post his 26 point performance. “It’s real big [for me to perform well on this stage] because I’m so young and it’s really great experience.”

You’d think a hometown kid would model his game after Payton, but for Smart that was not the case, “[I model my game after] Kevin Durant. I like how he scores the ball with his length.”

For now, Smart doesn’t check on offers or interest, he told Five Star Recruits. “I really don’t know, I don’t pay attention to all that noise yet.”

He will though return to Louisiana with previously attained offers of note from Oklahoma and Creighton, but expect more coaches to head down to cajun country to see this 6’4″ floor general over the next few years.

And whether he pays attention to it or not, his phone will be ringing constantly for a long time to come.

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