University of Arkansas signee Sonny Weems is a thoroughbred basketball player who'll be looking for the Triple Crown beginning next season.
That's because two years after winning a state high school championship at West Memphis, Weems (6-6, 200) and his University of Arkansas-Fort Smith topped Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College 68-59 Saturday night to win the national junior college title.
That leaves an NCAA title as his next goal.
"Winning the state title was great, but this championship was better because it's not just a city or state title, it's a national title and we took down all the teams in the country to win it - not just the ones in our city or our area or our state," Weems said Sunday night. "I can only think of one thing that could be better and that's winning the NCAA Tournament."
If the Razorbacks are to have an opportunity to challenge for a second NCAA title, Weems will likely have a big impact as he did with his all-around game during UAFS' four wins in the NJCAA tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
Weems' best game at the event was a 22-point, 7-rebound effort in a 75-71 semifinal round win over Highland. It was a game that Weems scored seven straight points while helping rally the Lions from a nine-point, second-half deficit.
"That was definitely the toughest game we had there," Weems said. "I could feel everything we had worked so hard for getting away from us and I just had to step up and take over and help jump-start my teammates."
Weems, who had 7 points and 3 rebounds in the championship game, then put a cap on the championship the next night when he canned four free throws in the final 16.7 seconds to seal the win over Tallahassee.
It completed a season that began with UAFS (33-3) - who ended the year on a 14-game winning streak - being tabbed the number one team in the country and Weems the number one junior college player in the country in the preseason.
"That was a great feeling to be there on the court and have won it all, to be the best junior college team in the country from start to finish," Weems said. "We really played so well as a team and came together and did everything we needed to do as a team to make it happen."
Weems, who averaged 16 points this season, was one of four Lions who made the all-tournament team along with 6-9 New Mexico State signee and MVP Hatilla Passos, 6-4 sophomore shooting guard Bruce Carter and 6-2 freshman guard Jordan Brooks.
He certainly showed his overall game in a second-round victory of Georgia Perimeter with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a trio of dunks in a 67-54 win.
"There were a lot of teams that would just try to focus on shutting me down, but we have such good shooters that if you shut down one of us, it's just going to leave somebody else open to knock down the shot," Weems said. "That's what happened all year."
Weems will certainly come to Arkansas with a winning background seeing as how his high school team won the state title in 2003-2004 and his junior college team combined to go 62-7 in his two season at UAFS.
"It's not about how many points you have at the end of the game," Weems said. "It's whether you team won the game. That's all you should care about."
Arkansas head coach Stan Heath expects Weems will make an impact right away and made that clear in his post-season press conference.
"I am pleased and honored that he is talking about how much I can come in and help the team," Weems said. "That's what I am planning on doing right away."
He's excited for the chance to play in the SEC, which is sending two teams to the Final Four this season in LSU and Florida in what was supposed to be a down year for the conference.
"It's going to great to come play in a league with such great competition," Weems said. "It will be a honor to play with those guys who are such great players and making a name for themselves, but I won't be backing down or taking a back seat to any of them."
He feels like Arkansas, which finished 22-10 this season and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons, will continue its uptick next season - with our without junior star Ronnie Brewer, who is contemplating a jump to the NBA.
"I am real confident in the guys that are already there and the ones we have coming in," Weems said. "I have high expectations. I don't see any reason we can't make it to the Sweet 16, maybe even the Elite Eight next season. You have to set your goals high and go out and work hard and make sure they happen."
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