The Illini hosted a trio of in-state prospects on Tuesday, and head coach Brad Underwood extended an offer to Bloomington High School rising junior Chris Payton.
The 6-foot-6 forward was surprised and excited to pick up the offer in Champaign.
"The visit was pretty good. I had a lot of fun. I had no idea they were going to offer me on the visit," Payton said. "I was really excited when I got it. It's been something I've been looking forward to for a while."
"I've got to thank Coach Underwood for it, because it means a lot."
Growing up in Central Illinois, Payton is very familiar with the Illinois program. And he believes Underwood has the arrow pointed up for the future.
"They are very committed to winning. He talked a lot about the analytic side of things, so he obviously knows what he's doing," Payton said. "He said they're looking to get the 'Illinois swagger' back. So that's something I'm definitely looking forward to seeing."
Payton could potentially be a part of that movement. He is coming off a good sophomore season -- averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds per game. Payton is playing with Brad Beal Elite this AAU season, and he continues to work on growing his game.
"I'd like to expand my game to push the ball. I'm trying to work on my handles and my shot to play on the outside," he said. "But I definitely have an athletic style of play that's very versatile and I'm a great rebounder. But still have a lot of work to do."
Payton's athleticism and impact on the glass plays well in regards to Underwood system.
"The way I rebound and get the ball out definitely fits the way they're going to play. Just trying to play consistent with it -- rebound at a high level, get it out quick, score at a high pace and get out in transition," Payton said. "That's something they're going to do and that's something I feel like I do well."
Illinois is the first high-major offer for Payton. He also has offers from Bradley and Illinois State.