By LARRY VAUGHT
If Zan Payne ever doubts how good his father was, he gets reminded often about it.
His father, Kentucky basketball assistant coach Kenny Payne, had a brilliant career at Louisville and was on the 1986 national championship team. He was a first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1989 and played four years in the NBA and later played professionally overseas.
“Every time I see somebody in a different county they are saying your dad played at Louisville and was a great player and stuff like that,” Zan Payne, a senior and leading scorer on Lexington Catholic’s basketball team, said. “He just says he was better than me. That’s what he usually says more than anything.”
The two sometimes play one-on-one.
“I let him shoot, so he wins most of the time,” Zan Payne said. “But I beat him all the time. If he starts talking trash …”
There has been some speculation that Zan Payne might join the Kentucky team as a walk-on like Brad Calipari, coach John Calipari’s son, did.
Zan says he “would kind of like” being coached by his father in some ways. He’s talked with his father about that but says his father is not in favor of him walking on at Kentucky.
“He’d rather me play D-I somewhere else. If not, I’d walk on at Kentucky,” Zan Payne, who seems himself as a small forward or two guard in college, said. “He thinks I am better than walking on, so that is why he would rather me go to another school.
The 6-4, 200-pound Zan Payne does not have any Division I scholarship offers yet. Some schools have shown interest, but he leaves it to his father to talk to them. He also said he might opt to attend a prep school next season as a fifth-year senior to help him become a more consistent shooter.
“I also need to improve on playing at a higher level, finishing better at the rim,” Zan Payne said.
Zan Payne scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds in a 45-40 victory by Lexington Catholic over Marshall County at the Marshall County Hoopfest last weekend. His father and Calipari watched most of the second half. His father sometimes attends games and it doesn’t take long for Zan Payne to know he’s there.
“Usually my teammates are the ones who tell me. Usually after I hear it, I try to get focused and block out that he is there,” the Lexington Catholic senior said.
But having his dad coaching at UK does have its perks. If a UK player calls his father wanting a late-night workout, Zan Payne usually goes along — whether he wants to or not.
“He makes me come with him every night. We start out doing like a mile on the treadmill,” Zan Payne said.
Those workouts help him develop — he’s averaging 23 points and almost 10 rebounds per game this year.
“He (his father) is so hard on me. I am always around like the best players and it is a good atmosphere,” Zan Payne said. “Dad is on me to be more explosive, play harder. Keep my motor high throughout the game.
“He’s both hard and encouraging (on me). Throughout the day he will be hard on me, yelling and all that stuff. At the end of the night he will be nice sometimes.”
Does Zan ever critique his dad’s coaching/recruiting? Maybe offer a few of his observations from what he sees.
“I let him do his own thing. I won’t do that,” he said.
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