Quinten Payne had the feeling in his gut. The one that meant, this is the place.
On Monday night, following an official visit the 6-foot-4 senior guard from St. Charles North issued his commitment to play basketball at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
"I thought coach (James) Whitford, who is the head coach, and the three assistants that they hired were just extremely good guys," said Payne, who averaged 19.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals last season, his third as a varsity starter. "They really have an opportunity to make that place a great one. It's a big gym and the people in Muncie really love their basketball."
One of those assistants, Jason Grunkemeyer, was just hired out of Miami of Ohio on April 26 to help Whitford, who himself arrived at Ball State on April 10 after serving as associate head coach at Arizona. Grunkemeyer had recruited Payne during his stay at Miami.
The Cardinals coaches liked Payne's length and versatility, which also generated an official visit to Virginia Tech and interest by DePaul where his mother, Sherry, played basketball. The two-time Daily Herald All-Area player averaged 23.8 points at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament to lead all players and earn a spot on second-team all-tournament.
"He'd (Whitford) like to use me as a long, lanky guard who can shoot the ball, get to the rim and make plays from there, and sometimes move me to the 1 (point guard position)," Payne said.
The 190-pounder, who started dunking the basketball in the seventh grade, had committed to Loyola-Chicago in August 2011 to join his older brother Cully, who at that time had just transferred from Iowa. When Cully Payne left the Ramblers program this March, Quinten decommitted.
"That was one of the main reasons why I was going there," Quinten said.
His brother will graduate in May and is still deciding whether to utilize his communications degree or his remaining year of eligibility -- though their father, Kent, noted it won't be at Ball State. Katlyn Payne, a former Florida Miss Basketball, is a redshirt sophomore at Eastern Illinois University.
When Quinten decommitted from Loyola, Ball State leapt into action. They viewed several St. Charles North game tapes, Payne said, some highlight tapes, and then came to St. Charles to put him through a workout.
Last season Ball State went 15-15 overall and 6-10 in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals have had just one winning season in the last eight, that being a 19-13 campaign in 2010-11. However, since a 6-24 mark in 2007-08 the club had three .500 seasons. Local players include Rockford Auburn's Marcus Posley and Morton's Rocco Belcaster.
Payne's looking forward to helping build the program into a consistent winner. His high school graduation ceremony is May 26 then he'll head to Muncie for summer school and initial workouts on June 17.
"I am very excited about the opportunity," he said. "I feel I'll be able to make an impact right away. I think it'll be a great environment for me to play in. It's perfect timing and a perfect situation for me to go in as a freshman."