Arkansas-Ft. Smith star Sonny Weems (6-6, 200)ended the speculation at a Friday news conference by picking the Arkansas Razorbacks as his next stop. He issued a verbal pledge to Arkansas and will sign with the Hogs in the early signing period in a few weeks.
Weems, a West Memphis product, picked the Hogs after also naming Tennessee in his final two. He was recently named the nation's top juco player by one recruiting service.
Weems, who averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds last season for a 29-4 team, also took official visits to Oklahoma State and Baylor and unofficial ones to Memphis and Oklahoma back earlier in the process.
Weems visited Arkansas on Sept. 10-12 and has been on the campus many times playing pick-up games with the current Razorback players.
"I really like their players and coaches and know they are going to have a great team," Weems said. "I know that when I go there they are going to be winning and that's important to me."
He visited Tennessee on Sept. 3-5 and was being recruited there by former Arkansas and UAB assistant Scott Edgar.
"I liked their campus and a lot about Tennessee, but I don't think they have as good a players right now," Weems said. "One thing I really have to think about is how the team is going to be my two years there. I do really like Coach Edgar."
Weems, a first-team All-Conference and All-Region player and third-team All-American player last season, was recently moved up from No. 3 to No. 1 in the rankings of national junior college players by Juco Junction.
He'll hook back up this season with former West Memphis point guard Mark Mangum, who he teamed up with to win a Class AAAAA state title and then looked on as Mangum and the Blue Devils repeated as state champs last season.
The Lions will open the season Nov. 3-5 with an appearance in the Southwest Missouri State-West Plains Classic.
UAFS will open against Olney (Ill.) College on that Thursday, play Highland CC on Friday and then host West Plains on Saturday night.
They will then travel to Coffeyville (Kan.) CC the following Tuesday before finally playing at home in its own Doe's Eat Place Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 11-12.
"I think we are going to have a great year," Weems said. "Our goal is to win it all."
At his news conference, Weems said, "Being a hometown kid I wanted to have the state support me and being able to come in and start right away and play good, quality minutes.
"It's been a long process. I'm happy to have it over with.
"My dad told me that it would be the best decision for me since I'm a home-state kid. come in and make a big impact and maybe start right away, help the team out a little bit.
"He just told me I'm going to be a wing man no matter what position I play, as long as I'm on the wing. I don't like the post."
On whether Arkansas' recent struggles made him less likely to win up in Fayetteville, Weems said,
"Not at all. The way I see it, my recruiting class coming in should be a real good recruiting class. They have Darian Townes back, a couple of other big men, and with the point guard transferring to Mississippi State, I believe I can come in and make a real big impact."
On who he watched in college basketball growing up in West Memphis, he said,
"I grew up I didn't watch that much basketball. I was a football guy actually, I wanted to play quarterback all my life, growing up watching Kurt Warner. Basketball just happen to come along the way."
Weems said his strengths are "getting up and down the floor; transition. I'm a real good penetrater. Got a good mid-range game, step back and knowck the three. Whatever you want I probably can do. As long as I play the wing, both wings.
"Out of high school I didn't know where I was going. I had to depend on my mom to see where I was going. Whatever she said, that's what I did."
On what made Arkansas and Tennessee stand out among the other schools he considered, he said,
"Coming in to play right away; probably going to be a starter,;\\; coming in to help the team out. My mom and dad can probably get up here and watch me play. If I go to Tennesee, it's like a seven hour drive from where I stay."
On the trips to Fayetteville to play pickup games, Weems said, "It was real nice playing with the Razorbacks, Division I coming from juco, so it was real nice to play with a Division I team."
Jeremy Cox, UAFS coach said, "Sonny and his family came to a decision late last night about 10:30. We wanted to try to get this over for the weekend so I could enjoy my weekend and he coulld enjoy his and have a good practice this afternoon.
"Selfishly I'm excited he went to Arkansas because it's very seldon you get to have a relationship with your players that close. ... Couldn't have a better kid to represent your state that Sonny Weems.
"Since about July our job has been to coach our basketball team and manage Sonny Weems' recruiting, and manage the recruiting of our sophomores but more or less Sonny's recruiting. We wanted to manage that and get it over with. It has been a distraction on our time. Thank goodness I have three quality assistant coaches that can take care of my day to day because my job has been to coach and really manage the recruiting process.
"Athletically he can play in the SEC. Defensively, I think that's what peopel aren't talking about. I think he can guard a forward or a guard in the SEC anywhere in the country. Athletically and skill level, as that improve, he'll be able to compete and score at that level as well but his upside offensively is unlimited right now."
On Weems' improvement since coming to juco, Cox said,
"In two areas, his strength has really improved and his shooting -- ability to score from further and further out on the floor keeps improving daily. And one of the other area is his maturity and the way he approaches the game is a lot more business like.
"I think Sonny's potential is as good as anybody I've ever coached."
HI.com's Dudley Dawson contributed to this story.
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