PALATINE, Ill. – Sophomore Rachel Payne (Wheeling, Ill./Schaumburg Christian Academy) had a successful freshman campaign for the Hawks in the 2012-13 basketball season. However, the 5-foot-5 point guard knew she could get even better.
Payne has elevated her game to a whole new level for the Hawks in her second season. The floor general for Harper, who recently scored a career-high in points, can now call herself the 11th Harper College Athlete of the Week for the 2013-14 school year.
Payne, whose favorite sport used to be volleyball and didn't pick up the game of basketball until the ninth grade, loved the challenge basketball presented.
"Basketball challenged me to become better, and I could practice it on my own," she said. "With volleyball, I couldn't really do that."
The Schaumburg Christian Academy grad knew Harper was the perfect place for her to hone her skills coming out of high school.
Payne scored 13.9 PPG as a freshman for the Hawks, good for second-best on the team.
In the offseason, she used her membership at XSport Fitness to improve even more. A typical morning for Payne included a workout, conditioning and shooting drills. At night she returned to play full court 5-on-5 games with predominantly grown men, including her two older brothers and brother-in-law.
"They made me the basketball player I am today," Payne said of her two brothers.
"She steps up and makes big plays when we need her to. She's hit some huge shots," said Harper head coach Jenny Turpel. "For her size, she's very successful getting into the paint."
She is also shooting better - 43.3 percent compared to 33.8 percent last year. Additionally, Payne has been a facilitator with the ball in her hands, averaging 3.3 APG, including a career-high eight assists against College of Lake County Nov. 8.
Perhaps her most important contribution has been an invaluable leadership quality.
"She's a leader, without her on the floor it gets chaotic. She brings a calming effect to the team," Turpel said.
While the Hawks are off to a bit of a rocky start with a 2-7 record, Payne feels her team is improving with each day of practice.
The N4C Academic All-Conference athlete seems destined for a lengthy collegiate career beyond the walls of Harper College.
"Rachel will be very good at the next level. She is always working to improve her game," said Harper assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Todd Zasadil. "She is a very smart player and a very good athlete. I look forward to seeing how she continues to progress this year and at the next level."