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Zan Payne preseason media Q&A

Payne is finally healthy after a major knee injury wiped out much of the last two years.

Zan Payne UK Athletics

It’s been a long road for Zan Payne to finally suit up for the Kentucky Wildcats.

The son of former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, Zan joined the program as a walk-on during the 2018-19 season. However, the 6-4 forward tore his MCL, ACL and patellar tendon in his right knee in February of 2018 during his senior season of high school basketball. That led to Payne missing the last two seasons while he recovered.

Now, the redshirt sophomore is fully healthy and ready to do whatever he can to contribute to the 2020-21 Wildcats.

On Wednesday, Payne met with the media to provide an update on his recovery, talk about the impact his father has made, and preparing for the upcoming season.

Here is a recap of what Payne had to say via UK Athletics.

On his health and the long recovery process with his knee injury …

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

On what he brings to the team …

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

On what it’s like no longer having his dad, Kenny Payne, coaching at Kentucky …

“It’s definitely different not having him around. Practice is way different. But we’re still doing good. We’re all on track. I still talk to him every day.”

On what advice Kenny Payne offers to him …

“He just says to keep working hard and keep working out and stuff like that.”

On his expectations for himself for the upcoming season …

“Probably to just to listen to the coaches and go out there and do what they tell me to do. If they need me, then I just do what they ask me to do.”

On what kind of influence his dad has played in his life and on the court …

“He influences it a lot. 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.”

On how practices are different …

“My dad used to like, I guess, yell at everybody and make us run a lot. If you knew him, he’s hard on everybody. He likes things the way he wants it. It’s definitely different in that way.”

On what his role was on his high school team compared to his role now …

“In high school, I was the captain of the team. The coach always wanted me to like just go score and stuff like that. But, here, I’m just probably going to play like defense. Go out there and play hard and play to win. Just do what the game tells me to do. That’s what coach always tells me, Coach Cal. Just do what the game tells you to do.”

On his impression of this team …

“All of my new teammates are all good. They’re all competitive. They all get after it. Practice is really fun and competitive.”

On how this team compares to last year’s team …

“It’s the same competitive nature from last year too. This is a really great group of guys, too, just like last year. So, it’s like all of the same for real.”

On how the coronavirus has limited their ability to practice and train …

“If anything it’s helped a lot because we’ve just had a lot of free time and we don’t go anywhere; just the gym and back to our rooms. We’re mostly in the gym all day. If we’re not in the gym, we’re lifting weights or conditioning. It’s really impacted everyone for real. We have more time in the gym.”

On his expectations of his basketball career …

“Really just to have fun with it. Go out there and have fun and play basketball. That’s really all I have to say.”

On what advice his father gives him on areas of his game …

“Yeah, really just shooting it better and just always keeping a high motor and playing hard at all times, never going (resting) on your knees, having great conditioning.”

On why he switched from jersey No. 21 to 20 …

“Cam’Ron Fletcher said he wanted No. 21 and I was willing to give it up to him. It was tough giving it up, but like I said, Cam said he wanted it bad. At first I was unwilling to give it up, but then I said, you know what, I’ll give it up just because he was cool about it and everything.”

On what people in New York should know about his dad as a coach and as a mentor and how he might impact players with the Knicks

“He’s just never going to give up on any of the guys that are on the team. He’s just going to keep working with them until they perfect whatever he wants them to perfect or whatever he needs them to do. He’s just going to keep working until they’re at where they need to be at.”

On what the team does to keep from going crazy since everyone is limited by COVID-19 safety protocols …

“There’s not really much. Sometimes we’ll go out to a team dinner. We’ll get part of the restaurant sectioned off for us and then we’ll just sit down and eat there. But there’s not really anywhere we can go other than that.”

On if there is anything they do in the dorms to occupy their time …

“Sometimes we’ll go to each other’s rooms and play video games or something that’s about it, for real.”

On what it was like the day his father decided to go to the Knicks …

“It was hard at first because he’s always been here right by my side. 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.”

On what he’s done in the offseason to get in shape …

“During quarantine, at the start of it, every day me and my dad would go walking. He would walk while I would run. As soon as I got far enough ahead, I would just run back to him and then just walk with him. I kept doing different patterns of running and walking.”

On if he’s noticed a difference on the court from that conditioning …

“Yeah. My conditioning is way better. Last year when I was practicing, I would just be tired when I was doing everything when I came back from the injury.”

On if any of the new guys have made an impression on him …

“I’ve known some of them from before now like Lance (Ware). But they’re all making me tougher and stuff in practice. They’re all going hard. They came to compete. Just stuff like that. When you play against people like that, it makes you tougher and play harder.”

On if he considers himself a veteran or a newcomer since he hasn’t played in his first two seasons due to the injury …

“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.”

On how he would describe his game to someone who has never seen him play before …

“I really like to play hard. I like to go rebound, just trying to the rim. 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.”