Donja Payne awarded CCAA Player of the Week

By Noel Sanchez, Feb. 7, 2023

Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball player Donja Payne earned the California Collegiate Association’s Player of the Week distinction for the week of Nov. 28-Dec. 4. This recognition meant a great deal to the forward/center as she prides herself on helping her team and doing her part to play an exciting game.

Payne, who is playing her first year with CPP, turned many heads prior to this award as she tied a school record with 23 rebounds in a single game — the most in the CCAA this year. Payne averaged 14.0 points and 16.5 rebounds, helping the Broncos to two victories that week against Cal State Monterey Bay and San Francisco State.

Having put in countless hours on the court, Payne was pleased to see her time paid off through this achievement.

Courtesy of Donja Payne

“Winning Player of the Week was a great feeling,” said Payne. “It means a lot to be noticed for working hard and doing the things I love to do.

”Growing up in Manteca, California, coming to CPP has been hard for Payne because she is away from her family and friends. Basketball has become her sanctuary, and she thanked her family for introducing her to it.

“I started playing basketball at the age of 12, and I started playing because I had a lot of family and friends who thought I played or wanted me to play,” said Payne. “I have lots of family who have played sports and continue to drive me to be my best self.”

Payne played many sports at 12 but decided to pursue basketball.

“I had a good experience playing at my cousin’s summer basketball practice,” said Payne. “I had played volleyball that same year, so it wasn’t hard for me to try and continue another sport.”

At East Union High School, Payne enjoyed an impressive experience where she received plenty of recognition.

“I started on the varsity team my freshman year until I graduated my senior year,” said Payne. “I got MVP of the league, I believe, three times out of my four years.”

Payne said that she believes her responsibilities on her team at that age helped mold her into the player she is today.

“Of course, I always had a lot of pressure to do good every game, but it always brought the best out of me and allowed me to still have fun,” said Payne. “I always knew that I wanted to play in college.

”Prior to joining CPP, Payne attended San Joaquin Delta College and played two seasons there. She led her team in scoring both seasons with 14.5 points per game and helped win 59 out of 63 games during her tenure.

When asked why she chose to play for CPP, she highlighted the culture the university has beyond the basketball gym.

“It’s all about having that support system that’s not just your teammates but also your peers and faculty members,” said Payne.

Payne noted that this season has been one where the Broncos have experienced ups and downs but have now been making strides in the right direction.

“The team has its moments where we stick together on the court and win but other moments we can mentally fall apart,” said Payne. “We are now getting a hang of what we are capable of when playing together, so it’s looking really good for us to finish the season out strong.”

Despite the school being far away from her first inspirations to play the sport, Payne has found a second home at CPP, and her close relationships with teammates made her initial adjustments much easier.

“As a student-athlete who is far from home, I have to find ways to get myself out of the feeling that I’m in a cycle that won’t end,” said Payne. “I always have someone to talk to and a helping hand that snaps me out of those ongoing feelings.”

Payne and the Broncos have achieved a record of 12-8 and sit at fifth place in their division at the time of this publication. She leads her team in rebounding thus far, with 12 per game, and has grabbed a total of 120 in the season.

Payne’s defensive presence has also been felt as she is second in the Broncos in blocks per game with 1.5.

Stay up to date with the CPP basketball schedule and scores on the Bronco Athletics website. The CCAA network also livestreams games on its website.

Feature image courtesy of Donja Payne

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