I talked to Payne's coach, Art Winston, to see how things are going in the recruitment of his star big man, and I took two things away from the conversation. One, it may be awhile before Payne gets his voluminous list down, and, two, there are so many elite programs involved that Pitt's chances are not great at this time.
The first thing Winston asked is if Jamie Dixon was still going to be there at Pitt, because he has heard about him mentioned with many openings. Then Winston again reiterated that he and Payne like Pitt's system and thinks he would be a good fit. He said they have a dish and tape as many games as they can so that they can see how each team plays. And they like how Pitt plays in their half court offense and how they play well in transition. He feels Pitt's style and Payne's style mesh nicely. But, of course, Pitt isn't the only school that matches that criteria.
Also, they are looking to see how many highly ranked players each program have at the same position. "We don't want a team with a lot of 6'9" or 6'10" kids coming in every year so that he consistently has to fight for minutes," said Winston. As for Blair leaving for the NBA, Winston said it makes no difference because even if Blair stayed all four years, Payne would only have played with him one year.
Winston also said that Payne, at 6'9", is more of a power forward than a center, but we agreed that there are few true centers in the college game anyway, so it didn't really matter. Winston sees no problem with Payne and Dante Taylor playing together. He also said that Payne handles the ball a lot and could even see him playing small forward in the NBA.
Back to Pitt, Winston said they would like to visit Pitt unofficially "when his AAU schedule settles down". He said that with Pitt about four and a half hours away, they will just go unofficially so that they can see the campus, and talk to the players and coaches. There will be many unofficial visits if they are close and Kentucky and Florida was also mentioned as probable visits.
We then talked about internet chatter that mentioned Payne as probably staying in Ohio for college. Winston vehemently downplayed that and said that Payne only went to Dayton and Xavier so often because they were local and have been recruiting him for the longest time. Winston emphasized that Payne will play wherever he feels like he fits in best, and that could be in Ohio or not.
Bottom line, Pitt has a chance, but there's an awful long way to go and a lot of elite programs to beat. Time will tell if Pitt hangs in there.