Known to many as "Q," Quinten Payne has made quite an impact on the St. Charles North's basketball program since his arrival as a sophomore two years ago.
After averaging 12.3 points and 5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, Payne earned all-Upstate Eight Conference River Division honors for the second straight season a year ago while scoring 17 points and snaring 6.7 rebounds per contest.
The 6-foot-4 guard has saved the best for last during his senior campaign this season.
Payne, who earned all-tournament honors while leading the North Stars to a second-place finish at the St. Charles East/Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament, added more all-tourney team hardware during St. Charles North's fifth-place showing at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament in December.
Payne is a big reason why the North Stars finished in a second-place tie with St. Charles East in the UEC River (8-4) and will carry an overall record of 16-9 into Thursday's conference crossover clash with Metea Valley.
"This year is the most fun I've had," said Payne. "It has been a great experience with all the guys on our team. It has been a fun year for us."
Whether he is sacrificing his body to come up with a loose ball or driving to the rim for a 2-hand dunk, Payne is in constant motion on the basketball court.
Never one to be satisfied, Payne just keeps getting better.
"Quinten has taken his game up a notch this season," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin. "His perimeter shooting has improved. He has always been a good shooter and now he's a great shooter. He is a phenomenal slasher and finisher. He gets to the free-throw line almost at will.
"He has played very well this year within the offense, taking what the defense gives him," added Poulin. "He has always been a good defender and he has done a great job as a help defender this season."
Then there's his explosiveness to the basket -- which has caught some by surprise at times.
"He had a dunk yesterday against Niles Notre Dame where he made one dribble and took off from two feet to put the ball down on top of a defender," said Poulin of Sunday's 73-72 loss at Gordon Tech. "At first, there was a moment of stunned silence before the place went up for grabs.
"He has a great deal of athleticism," added the coach. "He's very coachable and his will to win is incredible."
His will to win should come as no surprise.
Payne's dad, Kent, played college basketball at Southern Indiana and has coached at the high school and collegiate level, while his mom, Sherry (Harris) played college basketball at DePaul in the 1980s.
His older brother, Cully, was a standout high school basketball player at Schaumburg who went on to play at Iowa before transferring to Loyola. His older sister, Katlyn, was an all-state basketball player at Fenwick and at Bishop Verot High School (Fort Myers, Fla.) who now plays collegiately at Eastern Illinois.
"We are three of the most competitive kids you'll find," Quinten said of his siblings. "They've certainly driven me over my 18 years. We'll still compete in just about anything you can imagine. My sister is a real good 3-point shooter and we'll have 3-point contests against each other. When she wins, she makes sure I remember."
"Quinten wouldn't be who he is without his family," said Poulin. "They push him, support him and teach him. He is a product of that support group."
Payne is appreciative of his family's support, especially his dad.
"Every day, we'll get in the gym and work out," said Payne. "He'll have me watch game films. He knows when to get on me and when to back off. More importantly, he knows how to make me become a better player."
While there have been plenty of highlight-reel performances turned in by Payne during his high school career, there have been a few disappointments as well.
Last month, Payne stepped to the free-throw line for 2 shots with the North Stars trailing cross-town rival St. Charles East by a point and seven-tenths of a second remaining.
He missed both foul shots, as the Saints escaped with a 56-55 victory.
"Sometimes those things are going to happen," said Payne, who fielded every question thrown his way from the media following the game. "It was not fun at all but it was a great learning experience. It got me right back in the gym the next day.
"My brother called me after the game and said it was better that it was all on me," added Payne. "I had total control of the moment."
"He doesn't get beaten down," said Poulin. "I know there's nobody else we wanted to take those free throws. It'll make him better. He has hit some big free throws in close games since the East game."
Payne would also like to improve upon his team's 0-2 postseason record the past 2 years.
His sophomore year, the second-seeded North Stars lost a 67-58 decision to third-seeded Bartlett at the St. Charles East regional.
A year ago, the North Stars suffered a 63-50 regional semifinal setback at the hands of St. Charles East on North's home court.
"The last two years have ended a little rough," admitted Payne. "I take the losses personally."
St. Charles North enters next week's South Elgin Class 4A regional as the third seed and will face the host Storm in Monday's preliminary round.
"I'm going to do everything possible to get our team prepared for the tournament," said Payne. "I think we're going to make a good run in the tournament. If we lose, we're going to go down fighting."
During the course of 3-year career at St. Charles North, Payne has had the opportunity to play in many venues -- at Pontiac, Jacobs, UIC, Chicago State, Gordon Tech, Night of Hoops at Batavia -- and against a variety of different players -- including New Orleans Hornets/Kentucky forward Anthony Davis when he attended Perspectives Charter School in Chicago.
"Coming in as a sophomore with a lot of media hype, he has taken that on and has continued to be positive," said Poulin. "He has come through on the biggest stages. He wants to be successful. Winning is very important to him."
Payne will get a chance to play on the same team as his older brother when he joins Cully at Loyola next season.
Poulin's money is on Quinten to come through once again.
"If he's undersized at all, his athleticism, strength and competitive drive will help him," said Poulin. "You can't put a height, weight or any sort of measure on his competitiveness. He's somebody I'll never doubt going on from here.
"He has been a joy to work with," added Poulin. "We've been very fortunate to have him represent the program. 'Q' is as good as it gets -- both as a player and as a person."
You can reach Craig Brueske at email@example.com