Sonny's Delight

Despite some confusion earlier, Arkansas is one of the teams that remains very much in the hunt for UA-Fort Smith basketball star Sonny Weems (6-6, 200), who will visit the Razorbacks officially on Sept. 9-11.

There has been some confusion this summer over just how interested University of Arkansas-Fort Smith basketball star Sonny Weems really is in the University of Arkansas that resides in Fayetteville.

In fact - as his step dad Pastor Darrell Levy acknowledged Tuesday night - there has been a buzz in the state that the Razorbacks were out of the running , a perception augmented by Arkansas not being one of the teams Weems listed in a Memphis newspaper article in early August.

It appears the courtship is still alive as the 6-6, 200-pound small forward - who averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds last season and is rated by one service as the juco ranks' third-best prospect nationally - is scheduled to show up in Fayetteville for an official visit on Sept. 9-11 with UA head coach Stan Heath's program.

"You tell all the Razorback fans that we are extremely excited about Sonny's visit to Arkansas and they are most certainly one of his favorite teams and a place we can really see him playing," Levy said Tuesday night. "I realize there has been a buzz that he was not that interested, but Coach Heath has showed us just how interested he is Sonny and I can't say enough about the job he has done recruiting Sonny. Coming to the home school is a big thing for us."

Weems does admit there was a time when he didn't think that he would end up at Arkansas because of a wealth of players bunched up at the small forward spot, but Olu Famutimi turned pro and he has a better understanding of the roster and how he would fit into it.

"My dad and Coach Heath sit me down and really talked to about how things would be at Arkansas and the opportunity there would be there for me," Weems said. "That's why now I can see myself playing there and I'm looking forward to coming up."

Weems will visit Tennessee (Sept. 2-4), Arkansas (Sept. 9-11), Texas A&M (Sept. 16-18) and Baylor (Sept. 23-25) on consecutive weekends with Memphis and Oklahoma - where he has already taken unofficial visits - also in the mix.

If he does take a fifth visit it would likely be to Oklahoma State per Levy.

All of the aforementioned schools have put their best foot forward, but Levy says that it's Heath who has made the biggest impression on him and his wife Sherry.

"I'm going to be honest with you," Levy said. "I can't say enough about the emphasis Coach Heath has put on recruiting Sonny. He has made it clear just how much he wants Sonny to be a part of his program and how he can fit in and be an integral part of things. He has been to see him play games in Fort Smith, come to open gyms and saw all of his games at a Tulsa camp his team went to.

"Contrast that with how there are some head coaches on the schools on my son's list that have not even been to see him in person and have just been sending their assistants," Levy said. "It's like Coach Heath said ‘if they are not here seeing your kid they are off seeing somebody else's kid.' And I have been very, very impressed with the personal interest that he as the head coach is taking in Sonny. That really shows me something."

Like all coaches, Heath has also tried to put forth a scenario on how Weems would fit into Arkansas' system with or without Ronnie Brewer, who might turn pro at the end of the season.

"That is something at each of these schools that you have factor in," Levy said. "Who is coming, who might be going, who might still be around. Most of them are very honest with you about that because it is to their benefit to be.

As far as Ronnie and Arkansas, Coach Heath has told us how things would be for Sonny if he comes there and we are very satisfied with that," Levy continued. "If Ronnie goes on to the NBA, there is one scenario on how Sonny would be played and another if Ronnie stayed. They can certainly play together. I can tell you we think it would be a bonus if Ronnie stays as Sonny would love to play with such a great player, a very unselfish one who is about the team as is Sonny."

Weems concurs with his step dad, who came into his life when he was six weeks old during a time Levy worked at a hospital in Memphis.

"I really like Coach Heath and they have been with me since high school," Weems said. "I think they have a great program and I have been up there several times to play pickup games with them and really like the guys they have there now."

No longer in the running is Cincinnati, who parted ways with longtime coach Bob Huggins on Wednesday.

"I'm no longer interested in them," Weems said. "I think that's an interesting deal going on up there."

Like most basketball players, Weems has a goal of playing in the NBA and has worked hard on his game this summer.

"When you look at the schools on his list, you can see Arkansas, Oklahoma and Memphis are the ones that have really developed players for the NBA," Levy said. "That's what he thinks about. I think about him getting the education first, but also how he could develop at a certain school.

"One thing I have stressed to him this summer is that he has been blessed by God with the ability to get there some down, but it can't be about just getting there," Levy added. "You have to work hard now so you can stay there when that day comes. He has done that this summer and become much better player and his mom and I are definitely proud of the person he has become."

Weems is coming off a 2004-2005 campaign in which he averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds for a UAFS team that went 29-4.

He has been reunited with fellow former West Memphis star Mark Mangrum, who will take over as point guard for the Lions this season.

"That's my pardner there," Weems said. "It's going to be great to have him back. Our goal is to win the national championship this season and I think we have the team to do it."

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