But it was also a breakthrough for Payne on many more levels, including on social media. His Twitter account was bombarded with strangers during his three day stay in Knoxville, and Payne decided he wasn’t going to fight it. Most were Tennessee fans, and he would provide them with little nuggets here and there – like updates when he was walking through the Tennessee practice facility with his family, or better yet, trying on the Volunteers uniform.
“It just depends on the player, how he takes everything,” Payne said. “But it’s just really fun to see how it is and how bad schools and fans and stuff want you to come to their school. So it’s not that bad.”
Payne said he is attracted to play in the SEC, but not limiting his options there. He’ll visit Vanderbilt later this spring, and added that he is planning to take a trip back to Knoxville for Tennessee’s spring game – which is the only other unofficial visit he has planned, although he could go anywhere in the country, really. Payne has over 30 major offers, including Maryland, Florida State and Wisconsin.
“I really enjoyed this trip,” Payne said. “I’ve kind of always liked Tennessee…I like the coaches down there.”
Payne, a first-team All-Met selection this past fall at H.D. Woodson, transferred to Friendship Collegiate earlier this winter. He had secured a number of scholarship offers by that point, but there’s no denying that his national profile is on the rise at Friendship, where he will team with another standout recruit in defensive back Jalen Tabor. That will give the Knights, who plan to travel to Florida, New Jersey and possibly Nevada for games next fall, one of the best cornerback tandems in the country.
At Tennessee, Payne feels he could play early. He took note of newly hired coach Butch Jones’ plans to revive the historic program, which has gone 5-7 in each of the past two seasons.
“They’re doing some good things down there, man. They’re trying to bring the program back up because it’s been rough for them for the past couple years. And I think this year they’re going to make some big changes down there,” Payne said. “Just wanted to get down, and check it out.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 29
The number of combined runs scored by Paul VI and O’Connell in yesterday’s WCAC softball action. Ashley Bitto drove in eight runs to lead Paul VI to a 17-1 win over Bishop Ireton, while Tori Finucane struck out 15 batters and added a home run to lift O’Connell 12-1 over Good Counsel. Finucane has struck out 44 batters through three games this season for O’Connell (3-0).
VIDEO OF THE NIGHT
St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, which finished atop the girls’ lacrosse rankings last spring and returns a boatload of talent – including All-Met Player of the Year Carly Reed – rolled past Bishop Ireton, 16-1, in their season opener on Wednesday night. Here are the highlights.
– Springbrook grads Jamal Olasewere (20 points, 10 rebounds) and C.J. Garner (16 points) came up big for LIU Brooklyn against James Madison in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night in Dayton, but the Dukes were too much down the stretch, winning 68-55. Read the Post’s story by Rick Maese here.
– In Thursday’s nightcap in Dayton, Wilson grad and current Boise State center Kenny Buckner, who Preston Williams profiled earlier this week, scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds in 20 minutes of action in the Broncos 80-71 loss to LaSalle.
– Already hampered by two key injuries early this season, the Stone Bridge girls’ soccer team overcame the loss of another key player on Thursday to beat Robinson 2-0. Brandon Parker has the story.
– Paul VI junior guard Ariana Freeman, who committed early to West Virginia, has reopened her recruitment.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
NCAA men’s basketball tournament, all day
Scores of locals will be taking the floor for their respective teams as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament second round gets underway across the country. The list includes former St. Mary’s Ryken All-Met pick Traveon Graham, who will lead Virginia Commonwealth against Akron (9:45 p.m. ET), as well as three former area stars playing for Pittsburgh (National Christian’s Dante Taylor, McNamara’s Talib Zanna, DeMatha’s James Robinson) who will be key members in the Panthers’ contest against the Shockers of Wichita State (1:40 p.m. ET).