It seems like only yesterday that UAFS basketball announcer Preston Williams was calling out "Sonny Weems" while pushing the sound effects buttons to produce cannon shots to herald another thunderous, fast-break dunk by the super-athletic guard.
The memories might remain fresh on the minds of Lions fans, but it actually was 10 years ago this past spring that Weems, a sophomore in his final season at the then junior college, led UAFS to the 2006 NJCAA national championship – the second national title in the history of the men’s basketball program.
That was just one of many highlights in a successful playing career that’s taken Weems from West Memphis (Ark.) High School to UAFS to the University of Arkansas to the NBA.
"I remember everything about this place (UAFS). This is where it all began for me," Weems recalled. "This place jumpstarted my career. This place is special to me. I’m so happy to be back here. I haven’t been back here in a long time. I’m thinking I need to make more visits."
Weems, who played for the Phoenix Suns and the Philadelphia 76ers this past season, visited the UAFS Stubblefield Center on Wednesday afternoon for the final day of the UAFS men’s basketball skills camp, which was conducted by Lions head coach Josh Newman, his staff and current and former players.
It was the first of two appearances for Weems, who was on hand for the UAFS men’s basketball shooting camp on Thursday.
"It means a lot to be here for camp," Weems said. "We didn’t have camps when I was growing up in West Memphis, so to see these guys out here, be around them and shoot around with them is great. It’s just awesome being here."
Weems played two seasons at UAFS under former Lions coach Jeremy Cox, who is now an assistant coach at Southern Mississippi.
During his two seasons at UAFS, Weems helped lead the Lions to a combined 62-7 overall record, two Bi-State Conference East Division titles, one NJCAA Region II Tournament title and the 2006 NJCAA national championship.
Weems, whose older sister Beonka played basketball for the Lady Lions, was a two-time NJCAA All-American and as a sophomore was rated the No. 1 junior college player in the country by both Rivals.com and Street & Smith’s Magazine.
He went on to play two seasons at the University of Arkansas, where he helped lead the Razorbacks to consecutive NCAA national tournament appearances. He averaged 11.8 points per game as a junior and 15 points per game as a senior. Always a prolific dunker, Weems won the State Farm College Slam Dunk Championship held during the 2008 NCAA Final Four.
Weems was drafted in the second round (No. 39 overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Later in the draft, Chicago traded Weems to the Denver Nuggets for a 2009 second round draft pick in a three-team deal involving the Portland Trailblazers.
He split his rookie season between the Nuggets’ NBA Developmental League team, the Denver 14ers, and the Nuggets, with whom he made his debut on Jan. 17, 2009, against the Orlando Magic. Denver traded Weems to the Milwaukee Bucks on July 31, 2009, and the Bucks traded Weems to the Toronto Raptors on Aug. 18, 2009.
Weems played two seasons with the Raptors before embarking on a career overseas. He played one season (2011-12) for Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas and two seasons for CSKA Moscow.
He returned to the NBA last year on July 17, when he signed a two-year deal with the Phoenix Suns. He was waived by the Suns on March 5, but he was signed off waivers two days later by the Philadelphia 76ers. Weems played only seven games with the 76ers before being waived on March 27.
Weems will return overseas to continue his professional career. He recently signed a two-year deal with Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv, a professional basketball team based in Tel Aviv, Israel, that competes in the Israeli Premier League.
The team began play in the 1930s and has won six European championships, one Adriatic championship, 51 Israeli championships, 43 Israeli Cups and six League Cups. Maccabi is one of the most successful teams in European basketball history.
"It’s one of the powerhouses," Weems said. "I’m excited."