In a season where the Aggies went young with a senior-less roster, it was only appropriate that a star freshman led the way.
From carrying the weight of the men’s basketball program’s first official Division I season to running the team’s new Princeton offense, redshirt freshman point guard Mark Payne rose to every challenge in the 2007-2008 season.
It’s an awful lot to ask out of a freshman, but he’s progressing and maturing so much, said head coach Gary Stewart. He’s going to be a dominant Big West player by the time he graduates.
The Stockton native led all Big West freshmen in nearly every statistical category, averaging 9.3 points and team highs of 33.4 minutes, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals per game and a 52.4 field goal percentage.
On Mar. 1, Payne helped snap the Aggies’ season-long 11-game losing streak and clinch the Causeway Cup by turning in just the third triple-double in UC Davis history, tallying 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Sac State.
He’s a guy who’s dunking on one side, rebounding on the other and also bringing the ball up the floor, Stewart said. There aren’t many freshmen in the Big West who have led their team the way Mark has.
Needless to say, Payne also caught the attention of other coaches in the conference. On Mar. 10, Payne became just the third freshman in Big West history to receive Freshman of the Year honors in his team’s first official year as a conference member.
Mark had an incredible year, and it’s nice to see the other coaches felt the same way I did, Stewart said. He exceeded all expectations this year, and he’s is one of the reasons why we’re so optimistic about the future.