The Air Apparent

In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with UA basketball signee Daniel Payne (6-7, 210) after watching him play on Saturday night in Kansas. This story is sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. It's free and so is a special offer to attend a Razorback event. Click on the Arkansas Toyota banner for details

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COFFEYVILLE, Kan. - There is no doubt that the loss of University of Arkansas senior basketball standout Sonny Weems is going to leave a very big hole next season at small forward for the Razorbacks.

But it won't be surprising if UA signee Daniel Payne (6-7, 210) of Coffeyville Community College steps in and provides a lot of the same things that have made Weems so vital to the Razorbacks this season.

That's certainly the goal of a young man who played his high school ball in South Bend, Ind., before matriculating to Kansas.

"I work on my game extremely hard every day because I know that if I don't, somebody else is working to take my spot up there next year," Payne said. "Sonny is a great player and I like what he brings to the table. I think we are both very athletic, different players, but both who can do a lot of different things to help the team win."

Payne, one of five current Razorback signees, is averaging 18.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, 37 from behind the 3-point line and 73 percent from the free throw line.

He also leads the Red Ravens in steals and energy – something that excites Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey.

"Certainly we are all very excited about Daniel," Pelphrey said. "He is a guy that can both ends of the floor and doing what we want to do as far as staying in an attack type mode.

"He can guard multiple positions, is a high, high energy guy and sees value in playing defense," Pelphrey added. ‘He's a guy that I be surprised if he didn't get us an easy basket per half just by stealing the basketball himself and running through for a basket at the other end."

Pelphrey notes that Payne is a complete player and solid teammate.

"He is a good handler and passer and understands how to play with four other guys," Pelphrey said, "is a very capable 3-point shooter and I just think is a very, very good player for us because of his abilities to be versatile both offensively and defensively.

"I also think that Daniel has a commitment to team," Pelphrey said. "I don't think that he thinks he has to be the man and instead operates very well with the four other players on the floor."

Coffeyville head coach Jay Herkelman is obviously a big fan of his star who chose Arkansas over Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M and Wichita State.

"He competes so hard out there and has a motor that just runs and runs," Herkelman said. "A lot of people can do it sometimes, but he does it all the time and is one of those guys that can do it continually. That's what separates him from others when he is not having a great shooting night. He never shuts it down."

Payne showed his versatility on Saturday night when he had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists as Coffeyville took down archrival and visiting Independence 81-76 at Nellis Hall.

Payne did not have a great night shooting the ball, but did many other things that helped his team knocked off a team that was riding a 21-game winning streak.

"I bring a lot to the table and know that I have to be a big presence on the floor," Payne said. "I draw a lot of double teams and my key tonight was looking for every one else, making the type of plays that help get my teammates going and help us win."

Herkelman expects Payne to be able to have a big impact at Arkansas right away.

"We have guys that have gone from here to the Big 10, the Big 12, the ACC and had one that went to the SEC," Herkelman said. "I think Daniel is one that will go into the SEC and be productive right away. He is long, fast and athletic. He needs to gain some more weight, but he shoots it, can take it off the dribble and I think he is going to be a player that the Arkansas fans enjoy watching."

Coffeyville is now 19-8 on the season, 10-5 in Jayhawk Conference play after a 77-71 loss Monday night at Johnson County.

The Red Ravens will not win their seventh straight conference title, but still maintain a shot at a third straight regional title and trip to the National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

They will have to win a home playoff game and then three straight on the campus of Wichita State to get there.

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