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St. Charles North's Quinten Payne dunks against Waukegan earlier this season. Payne is averaging 18.9 points for the North Stars. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
As the youngest child in a family known for its basketball prowess, Quinten Payne learned at an early age to never be satisfied with the state of his game.
“I feel like every year you have to get a little bit better in everything that you do,” Payne said. “I still have a lot of growing in my game to do. Every day I get after it and try to get better.”
The ethos helped Payne land a scholarship to Loyola prior to his junior season, and it continues to pay dividends now that he is a senior and in his third year as a starter for St. Charles North’s varsity team.
Last Friday, Payne endured a humbling moment when he missed two free throws with less than a second left in a 56-55 overtime loss against rival St. Charles East. Payne shouldered the blame after the defeat, but the North Stars wouldn’t have even had a chance at the end without his 26 points.
Payne’s importance to St. Charles North can’t be overstated. The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 18.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals for the 10-7 North Stars.
“He has definitely matured and understands the total game better than he did when he was younger,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said of Payne. “Individually, we haven’t had a harder worker. We’ve had so many good and dedicated kids come there through the program, but there hasn’t been anybody more dedicated than Quinten.”
Last name raises profile
The Payne family has deep roots in the area’s basketball community, starting with parents Kent and Sherry Payne, who were both star players at Schaumburg High. Sherry went on to play at DePaul while Kent played at Southern Indiana. Kent later coached at St. Edward, Addison Trail and Elgin Community College and is now the athletic director at ECC.
The Payne’s offspring have been in the limelight ever since oldest son Cully committed to DePaul as an eighth grader. Cully played as a freshman and sophomore at Burlington Central before transferring to Schaumburg for his last two years of high school. He didn’t end up at DePaul, instead beginning his college career at Iowa before transferring to Loyola, where he has started every game this season with the Ramblers.
Quinten’s older sister Katlyn Payne is now a redshirt sophomore on the Eastern Illinois women’s basketball team. As a freshman in high school Katlyn helped lead St. Edward to the state finals before transferring to Fenwick for her sophomore and junior campaigns. She spent her senior season at Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Fla.
The family’s exploits meant Quinten’s arrival at St. Charles North as a sophomore was met with great fanfare when he transferred to the school after playing as a freshman at Bishop Verot.
While his last name certainly created external pressure on Quinten to succeed, he says he’s used his family’s legacy more as a source of inspiration.
“What has really helped me is with everyone in my family being successful, on the days when I’m tired I think, ‘Do I really want to take today off, or do I want to work to beat out my brother and sister on being able to shoot the ball better or do some other skill better?’” Payne said. “I don’t know if you’d consider it pressure or more of a competition thing.”
As Quinten’s high school career winds down, there’s little question he has enhanced his family’s legacy both on and off the court.
“Quinten is really a credit to his parents and the way he was raised,” Poulin said. “First and foremost he’s a really good person and a phenomenal student. He’s also dedicated to his craft. He’s got success written all over him.”
All hoops, all the time
Given his upbringing, it comes as no surprise that basketball is a 365-day-a-year endeavor for Payne.
Rarely does a day go by when Payne doesn’t work on his skills with either his father or noted player development coach Jeff Pagliocca. He also makes frequent visits to see trainer Matt Smith at Nate’s Premium Athletes, focusing on strength and agility.
Payne says all the hours in the gym have been spent preparing not just for the high school season, but also for the challenges he will face at Loyola.
“Over the past two or three years I’ve really been working on catch and shoot,” Payne said. “As a freshman my whole game was just get to the rim and try and finish. But when you get to the college level you get 6-9, 6-10 guys in there, so I’ve really worked on my three-pointers and mid-range game.”
Payne is shooting 46 percent from the field this year and 48 percent from three-point range. That ability to knock down shots from the outside will serve him well next year with the Ramblers when he joins Cully, who has at least one more season of college eligibility after this year.
For now, though, Quinten’s size can be utilized in the post against Upstate Eight opponents, offering another example of his versatility.
“Quinten is a very strong kid, especially from the waist down,” Poulin said. “He’s gotten more interior touches this year than in the past, which has really displayed his ability to use his body.”
St. Charles North has eight games left in the regular season, and then it is on to the state tournament, where the North Stars are winless the past three years. For Payne, the lack of postseason success is yet another driving force.
“When we went 3-1 at the Pontiac Tournament (last month), we realized that we can compete with the top teams in the state if we defend and play as a team,” Payne said.
“What I’m most excited about for my senior year is trying to lead our team to win the conference and go deep in the state tournament.”