Zan Payne is excited to get healthy and play


Freshman Zan Payne spins a basketball during Photo Day in Memorial Coliseum Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Meet Zan Payne: A 6-foot-four, 240-pound Kentucky freshman guard/forward and graduate of Lexington Catholic High School.

Oh, and also the son of Kentucky associate head coach, former Louisville Cardinal and Philadelphia 76er and one of the top recruiters in the nation, Kenny Payne.

Zan was a three-year starter and averaged 19.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game at Lexington Catholic as a senior. Unfortunately, the standout suffered a knee injury in February of his senior season that ended his high school career. Kentucky was willing to give him a shot, though, and announced his addition to the roster in May.

Fast forward several months to October, and Zan is living the dream on the Kentucky men’s basketball team— getting to play for his dad, being surrounded by elite teammates and being coached by Coach John Calipari while he gets healthy and rehabs his knee.

Zan said his dad is his biggest influence and that he enjoys having him as one of his college coaches.

“It’s actually really nice, he just tells me what I need to learn and the expectations that they have for me and that he expects a lot since I’m hurt right now,” Zan said. “He just wants me to keep fighting hard.”

Because of Zan’s injury and not being able to fully participate, he said his dad hasn’t really gotten the chance to get onto him yet, but the time will come.

“It’s more serious, he doesn’t like, he hasn’t really said much to me yet but it’ll probably come later on,” Zan said of their relationship on the court.

Playing basketball with your dad in the backyard versus playing for your dad at a Division I program are two vastly different things, and Zan said Kenny’s coaching style shifts between the two.

“Here it’s more strict, you gotta take it more serious, you gotta go way harder here,” Zan said.

He prefers the stricter coaching style from his dad because he believes it will make him a better player in the long run.

Kenny is the main reason Zan chose to come to UK, and he said that because he’s from Lexington, it’s “kind of weird” playing basketball for Kentucky now. Aside from the weirdness, the freshman said it’s been a really cool experience so far and he likes it a lot.

As of now, Zan’s regimen has been sticking to physical therapy, icing and stretching to get back to 100 percent, and he won’t be cleared to play until around March. In the gym, he’s limited to standing shooting drills like free throws and form shooting. Despite the bad news, he’s tried to remain positive through the hard times.

“I was sad a little bit, but then I was still in good spirits, though,” Zan said.

He said the injury motivates him to go harder, take everything more seriously and work hard to get his body where it needs to be to help his team on the court, and he has a specific vision for what his role will be on the team.

“When I get healthy, probably just like help the other players become better players and competing against the other players as hard as possible,” Zan said.