Park of Cottage Grove (MN) big man Pharrel Payne talks about recent Gophers offer

Interview conducted by Chris Monter

Pharrel Payne, a 6-foot-8 rising senior center/power forward from Park of Cottage Grove, is considered one of the top big man in Minnesota in the Class of 2022.

Payne averaged 14.8 points per game this past season. He scored in double figures in 16 of 20 games, including a season-high 26 points versus Stillwater in the season opener.

Payne helped lead the Wolfpack to an 11-10 mark, losing to Rosemount 66-41 in the Class AAAA Section 3 title game.

GopherHole caught up with Payne on June 13th at the Breakdown Summer Series to learn the latest on his recruitment and upcoming senior year.

Payne received an offer from Minnesota last week and GopherHole caught back up with Payne on June 19th for a few follow-up questions about his offer.


GopherHole: You are playing in this event with your high school team. I know that you had a very good season last year, knocking off top seed Eastview in the playoffs and made it to the section finals, losing to a good Rosemount team. What are things looking for the upcoming season for Park of Cottage Grove?


Pharrel Payne: Our expectations are very high this year. We want to make it to state. That’s our goal.


GopherHole: I don’t know how much you know about Park’s history. They had some great success in the 90’s, but in the last decade, they haven’t been that great (going 10-125 from 2009-10 to 2013-14). How pleased are you that you are part of these hopeful turnaround for the team?


Pharrel Payne: I’m definitely excited about it. Definitely a positive way to move forward over time, because the last ten years, we were deemed the worst team in our conference, so it is definitely a good thing that we are playing better now.


GopherHole: Have you heard from people in the community says that it is nice to see you doing so well?


Pharrel Payne: Lots of people in the area are say “Good job,” and “Congrats.” We hadn’t made it to the section finals in probably 15 years.


GopherHole: Does that make you feel proud that people are recognizing how well you guys are playing?


Pharrel Payne: Yes, for sure.


GopherHole: I know that you are starting to hear from some schools. What schools are you hearing from the most right now?


Pharrel Payne: Schools I’m hearing from the most, obviously, Loyola. They offered me. I’m hearing from Colorado, and St. Louis the most.


GopherHole: Are you hearing from the homestate school, Minnesota yet?


Pharrel Payne: I’ve heard a little bit from Minnesota. They’ve checked in with me to see how I’m doing.


GopherHole: Do you like the recruiting process so far or are you starting to see how it can get a little overwhelming at times?


Pharrel Payne: Yeah, it gets kind of overwhelming at times, but obviously, it is a positive thing.


GopherHole: What will it mean to you to play Division I basketball, wherever you decide to go?


Pharrel Payne: It will mean working hard. Working hard to get there. Working hard to get that offer and from there on, keep working.


GopherHole: What things are you really working on this summer to continue to improve yourself as a player?


Pharrel Payne: For starters, I am getting in the gym at least two to three times a day. Working out. Getting in the weight room.


GopherHole: How about your AAU season? I know that you play for Mitch Ohnstad. How pleased are you with how well you’ve  been playing? I think your record is 23-6.


Pharrel Payne: I’m very happy with that. We’re getting out there. We’re working hard. We’re playing and we are up there with the best teams in Minnesota.


GopherHole: Do you know where you are playing in July yet?


Pharrel Payne: I believe in July, we are in Sioux Falls, Indianapolis and Alabama.


GopherHole: How much do you think that has helped your game playing against guys who are your size or maybe even bigger?


Pharrel Payne: It has definitely helped me a ton, feeling them out. Being able to go against them, go head to head. I’ve learned tons of stuff from that.


GopherHole: Do you come from an athletic family?


Pharrel Payne: My older brother (Rodrick Payne, who averaged 7.8 points per game at East Ridge this past season) is going to UW-River Falls. He just committed.


GopherHole: Is that where you get your love of the game, playing with your brother in sports, growing up?


Pharrel Payne: Yes. Me and my brother, obviously as well as my older brother. My little brother plays football and then I had an older cousin that lived with me, he plays at Colorado Mesa. He plays football there. We all just play sports. We are kind of competitive against each other.


GopherHole: Is that kind of a good thing or does it get a little bit too much sometimes?


Pharrel Payne: Sometimes, it gets a little bit too much. We argue, but that’s just a part of brotherhood.


GopherHole: Have you thought much about what you would like to major in at college yet?


Pharrel Payne: I want to be a bio major.


GopherHole: How old are you right now?


Pharrel Payne: I’m 16.


GopherHole: That’s what I thought. I heard someone say that you are young for your class and that you could probably be a sophomore. When do turn 17?


Pharrel Payne: August 22nd .


GopherHole: Is that something you feel can help you in the end that you are a little bit younger, but you are catching up to people more each year?


Pharrel Payne: Yes, for sure, because I’m like what my coach says, “I’m just a kid, I’m still learning. I’m a little kid. I’m able to run with the older kids.


GopherHole: What are you up to height and weight-wise right now?


Pharrel Payne: Height-wise 6-8 and like 235.


GopherHole: Do you think that is one of your main advantages because, to be honest, there are a lot of kids that are about your height, but they are sometimes skinny, while you have a little more strength to you?


Pharrel Payne: Yes. Being able to keep them pinned in the post and get the ball and go up strong.


GopherHole caught up with Payne and asked him three follow-up questions Saturday at the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association D1 Showcase.


GopherHole: You received an offer from Minnesota the other day. What was that like?


Pharrel Payne: It was great. Definitely a great experience because the Gophers are one of my dream schools. It feels great to have an offer from them.


GopherHole: Did you have a feeling that might be coming. Had you heard anything from your AAU coach or someone that an offer might be coming or were you caught a little bit off guard?


Pharrel Payne: It was off guard. It sort of popped out of nowhere. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know their head coach was there.


GopherHole: This is your first experience for quite awhile playing in front of college coaches. What was this like to play here with some good teammates and play in front of all the college coaches?


Pharrel Payne: It was fun. It was a great experience to have this because some of the top kids on the team together. It was fun playing, showing off this weekend.


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