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Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Torrey Payne ’14

mathematics - economics

Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia

Who I was when I got to Reed: In high school I went to Brazil for what was supposed to be four weeks, and ended up staying eight weeks. By extending my stay, I had to give up football, which up to that point had been plan A: play college football and go to the NFL. I was this big kid, six foot four, and it made sense for me to play football. But when it came right down to it I didn’t like it at all. I wanted to be smart, educated, an academic. By staying on in Brazil I was defying expectations and doing what I wanted to do.

How Reed changed me: Reed taught me the value of hard work.

What I would tell prospies: People here aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind and are willing to hear what you have to say in response. By the time you graduate from here you’ll be rewarded for every bit of hard work, every relationship you build, for all the energy and hard work you’ve put into it.

Favorite class: Econometrics showed me the light.

Favorite spot on campus and why: There’s a workroom in the ETC building where I sit near the window for hours, doing homework and watching basketball on my laptop.

Cool stuff I did: I learned to play piano, performed stand-up with Reed College Comedy Club, and helped start Men of Color, where those so inclined can get together and hang out.

Obstacles I have overcome: I came in as an ICPS major and didn’t do any math the first year. After changing to a math–econ major I had to do a lot of catch-up with my math course work. The math department is a very inviting and fun community, which made the work easier.

Scholarships, awards, or financial aid: Getting financial aid was a critical part of my decision to come to Reed.

Advisers: Prof. Jeffrey Parker [economics 1988–] and Prof. Albert Kim [statistics 2013–]

Thesis: “The Economics of New Technology and Wages: Marginal Effects of Two-Point and Three-Point Shooting in the National Basketball Association”

What it’s about: The goal of my thesis was to determine whether three-point shooting was valued in the NBA labor market, and if so, whether it was valued more than two-point shooting. The answer to the first question is “yes,” three-point shooting is positively valued. But, a one-point increase in two-point scoring per game is valued way more than an increase in three-point scoring. I figured they would pay more to players who make three-point shots, because they’re harder. I got NBA salary data per player, per year, and player performance data from Basketball Reference. I took all of the players who signed in a given year, merged that data with their previous season’s performance, and attached advanced statistics to that data set. I realized I could answer a lot of the questions that I’d asked myself when I watched basketball as a kid.

What it’s really about: Shaq or Kobe?!

What’s next: Working in Portland at a law firm and saving for a coding bootcamp.