Patrick Rucker was once told to run with a medicine ball during practice until then-Mississippi Valley State head basketball coach Andre Payne instructed him to stop.
Rucker said Payne later left the gym without saying a word. It was an assistant coach who then told an exhausted Payne that his long journey could end.
But it wasn’t the last time Rucker would have to carry a heavy medicine ball at the behest of Payne. Another occasion involved toting it around the entire campus as punishment.
‘It was just that the coach (Payne) didn’t really want me on the team,” Rucker told HBCU Sports. “He was testing whether I would do it. If I didn’t do it, he wanted me to quit.”
Rucker is the latest Mississippi Valley State athlete to allege mistreatment by a coach that ranged from verbal to emotional abuse.
The allegation comes weeks after Mississippi Valley State softball players spoke out regarding similar abuse directed at them by members of the coaching staff.
Rucker, who now plays basketball at Miles College as a junior, said he doesn’t know why Payne singled him out other than he was a walk-on who “didn’t want me on the team.”
“He told me I wasn’t good enough,” said Rucker, who detailed that he never broke team rules or challenged authority. “It was a mental thing. He would tell me ‘I need to play like this.’ I would do it and then get yelled at.”
According to the Mississippi Valley State basketball website, Rucker was on the Delta Devils roster during the 2018-19 season in which he started 12 of 24 regular-season games that year.
During his one season under Payne, (fired in 2019 after five seasons) Rucker claimed that Payne often would berate him in front of teammates and even treat other players similarly.
“He would just talk crazy,” said Rucker without getting into the specific language or comments directed at him and others. “They think they can just talk to us any kind of way. You think we’re going to let you keep talking to us like that?”
Rucker acknowledged that only once did he contemplate leaving the basketball program but was convinced otherwise at the encouragement of his teammates.
“It was special,” he said of the support received. “I really liked them. They were like my brothers.”
The then-freshman explained that he didn’t complain to Payne about the way he was treated. Rucker disclosed that despite what he regarded as unfair targeting, the desire to prove that he “wasn’t soft” was the driving force behind his continued commitment.
Rucker, much like the softball players before him, alleged that abuse is widespread across sports at the university. However, many athletes are reluctant to share their stories.
That’s because school administrators are not forthcoming with providing answers or corresponding action when complaints were levied, he said.
Rucker and other athletes say the school has been long privy to issues of coach-led abuse within the athletic department, though the maltreatment continues regardless.
A spokesman for Mississippi Valley State explained to an HBCU Sports reporter the university is aware of the complaints and is currently conducting an investigation. A timeframe for when the probe will be completed is unknown.
In the meantime, Rucker hopes the school reacts appropriately to save the reputation of the institution.
“They (coaches) are tearing down their school and tearing down their school spirit,” he said.