Gary Payton II is a former Salt Lake Community College basketball star.
Now playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA G League, Payton returned to Bruin Arena Thursday night to face the Salt Lake City Stars.
“There’s only good vibes in this gym, I love coming back here to play,” says Payton.
Payton, who went to high school at Westwind Preparatory Academy, decided to play his JUCO ball at SLCC because of the program’s prestige.
“Salt Lake Community College was just the best option at the time, they’re obviously year in and year out one of the best teams in the country,” says Payton.
Payton won Region 18 Championships during both of his seasons at SLCC. He was named a second-team All-American by the NJCAA as a sophomore, averaging 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game in 2013-14.
Although he didn’t win a national championship at SLCC — he missed the championship team by a year — Payton has only fond memories of his time in the Beehive State.
“I love Salt Lake City in general, well, you know, when it’s not cold out,” he jokes. “It’s a beautiful town.”
Payton’s return to SLCC with the Vipers ended early, as he was ejected from the game in the third quarter. He tallied eight points and three assists against the Stars.
All was not lost, however, when Payton’s teammate, Jacobi Boykins, hit a game-winning step-back three to defeat the Stars, the Jazz’s G League team, 103-102. Boykins put up an impressive night offensively, scoring 24 points and dishing out three assists.
The Stars play at Bruin Arena for most of their home games. This year, the team has featured consistent G league players like Naz Mitrou-Long, as well as some Jazz players who have come down in stints to develop their games, including Grayson Allen and Georges Niang.