In-state 2019 high-flyer Chris Payton traveled east down I-74 on Wednesday to check out the Illini campus during an unofficial visit.
The Bloomington HS product is one of the top sophomores in the state with his length and athleticism. Payton talked about his impressions of the visit with John Groce and the Illini coaching staff.
"It was a good experience," Payton said. "I went and toured the campus. Got to learn what the school is about with the academics and everything. We went to the football field for a little bit and threw the football. They just gave me the basic tour and said they'd like to have me back."
Illinois is intrigued by the 6-foot-6 forward, who makes plenty of highlight plays above the rim. If he improves other aspects of his game, he is on track to be a no-doubter at the high-major level.
Payton said that he talked with the Illinois coaching staff about what he can do to become a well-rounded prospect.
"We talked about what I'd like to improve on going through high school and how I though the summer was going so far," he said.
That focus for improvement will center on becoming more skilled with the ball in his hands.
"I'm working on developing my guard skills, and seeing what I can do to get better and help the team out," Payton said. "This year, it's championship or bust. So I'm trying to get better at everything."
Bloomington won a share of the Big 12 title last season, but they fell against Peoria Manual in the sectional finals. Payton was a significant contributor on last year's team, but now, he is looking to make a big jump.
"I want to be the best player on the court at all times," he said. "I want to improve over the season and do things to help my team win. As a team, I want to get back to where we were last year but then make it to state. Because I know if we get to state, anything can happen."
Last weekend, Payton helped lead Bloomington to claiming the Peoria Richwoods Shootout title by defeating Springfield Lanphier in the final.
"It was a pretty good tournament. It was pretty hard with how many games we had to play throughout the day and in a short amount of time," Payton said. "But that's kind of like how AAU is. We pushed through it and won."
Payton will play with the Mac Irvin Fire 15U squad when AAU play resumes in July. As for other visits, he said he doesn't have any planned at this point.
"I haven't really put too much thought into it," Payton said. "If anyone else wants me to come, I'd put some thought into it. Most likely, I'd be more than happy."
One thing Payton is sure of is his feeling about the home-state orange and blue.
"I really like the program, honestly," he said. "From what I learned on the visit, I really do like it. It will definitely be an option if I end up getting an offer."