By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Team Water staying positive

Marcus Larson/News-RegisterMcMinnville senior SPencer Payne cheers his team on from the sidelines Feb. 19.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
McMinnville senior SPencer Payne cheers his team on from the sidelines Feb. 19.

Payne, now a senior, found himself reverting to those old habits when he found out he had a broken wrist prior to the start of the basketball season and couldn’t play. For the first few games of the season, there was Payne — a team captain and one of the best players in the Pacific Conference — making trips to the cooler to help hydrate his teammates.

“Guys started calling me Team Water and it kind of stuck, I guess,” Payne said Feb. 19 after the Grizzlies closed out the regular season with a win vs. Forest Grove on Senior Night. McMinnville plays at 7 p.m. tonight at West Linn in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.

Payne never got the chance to play in a game this season because his wrist hasn’t healed fast enough. Instead of withdrawing into the shadows of the varsity, Payne actually increased his presence, astounding his coaches more than once this season. Payne was taken off his water duties not long after the season started because he was too far from the coaching staff and had the tendency of being too vocal during games.

“You needed a seat belt to keep him on the bench,” McMinnville assistant Ryan McIrvin said.

Payne moved next to McIrvin on the bench and was second only to Mac head coach Willie Graham in number of calories burned on the sidelines.

While Payne couldn’t help his team during games, he helped prepare his teammates during practices.

I did whatever I could do with this thing,” Payne said, pointing at the green cast on his right wrist. “I practice with it. I got some foam on it so I could. My teammates are my favorite people in the world right here. They’re my team. Just wanted to find ways to get involved.”

Graham said the coaches didn’t expect just quite how dedicated Payne would be. They told him he didn’t have to do much during practices, but he insisted on not only running with the team but playing on the scout team.

“It wasn’t even a question,” Graham said. “He was on the team the whole time. He was there every day.

“In practice it’s almost comical. We would look at each other and ask, “Why is he competing so hard? He would get extremely mad when he couldn’t will the JV to a win. Special kid.”

Payne said it was hard not to play this season, but he’s made the best of it. The injury is also affecting his spring sports season. An all-conference baseball player, Payne said he won’t be able to swing a bat and instead will run track.

“There’s a ton he can bring anywhere he goes,” Graham said. “Attitude, work ethic, the whole thing. It’s infectious.”

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