Payne ready for fresh start this season with Cats

Kentucky%27s+Zan+Payne+is+looking+forward+to+the+upcoming+season.+

Elliott Hess

Kentucky’s Zan Payne is looking forward to the upcoming season.

LEXINGTON (KT) — Zan Payne is still getting used to his father not being around campus.

“It’s definitely different not having him around,” Payne said Wednesday. “Practice is way different. But we’re still doing good. We’re all on track.”

Payne’s father, Kenny Payne, left his post at Kentucky to take an assistant coaching position with the New York Knicks over the summer. Payne still keeps in touch with his father on a regular basis and said he played a role in his progress on the court.

“He influences it a lot,” Payne said. “Every day when I was little, we used to work out together, like every single day. He would teach me everything that he would do. When he left, it was all good because he went to go work with the New York Knicks, obviously.”

Payne added that it was difficult to see his father leave the program.

“It was hard at first because he’s always been here right by my side,” he said. “Everybody in my family, we were all happy for him. We were happy he’s going to work for the New York Knicks. That was one of his dream jobs was working in the NBA, so we were all happy for him.”

The younger Payne has spent the past two seasons recovering from a knee injury and has worked his way back into playing shape.

“It’s been super long,” he said. “It’s been like a year and a half now. But I’m back at 100 percent. I feel good and I’m ready to go.”

Payne is looking forward to making more contributions this season and beyond.

“Whatever coach needs me to do, I can do,” he said. “I can go in there and play hard. I love playing defense and I love playing hard. I play to win.”

Payne described his game as a player who “likes to play hard. I like to go rebound, just trying to the rim,” he said. “I need to work on shooting and finishing at the rim. Obviously playing high school and then coming to Kentucky and playing in college is way different. Everybody is 7-foot when you drive into the lane. Just working on shooting when you’re tired.”

The sophomore forward said his conditioning has gotten “way better” since coming from his injury and it has shown during the preseason.

“Last year when I was practicing, I would just be tired when I was doing everything when I came back from the injury,” he said. “I’m basically a newcomer. I’ve known all the plays and stuff like that, but it was my first time this summer starting the new season and coming on the court. I’m just like everybody else.”