It's only fitting that a player with the last name of "Painter" comes up with a masterpiece in his final year of prep hoops, but for Litchfield senior Sam Painter, the best may be yet to come.
On Friday, March 22, Painter ended a month's long recruiting journey by signing to continue his educational and athletic career at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
"It was the best fit for me with sports, and especially education. Academically, it is one of the best in the nation, plus it's just a really, really nice school," Painter said of Illinois Wesleyan.
The Titans were one of several schools looking at Painter after a solid summer with the Illinois Irish travel team and a senior season at Litchfield that was off the charts.
Painter's numbers during his sophomore and junior seasons were nothing to sneeze at, having led the team in points and rebounds in 2017-18, but they were a drop in the bucket compared to what the 6'3" guard/forward did as a senior.
Painter led the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in 2018-19, posting a staggering 19.2 points per game.
With 471 points going into the season, and having never scored more than 270 in one year, Painter was thought to be a long shot at reaching the magic 1,000 point mark. But as the season progressed, Painter put up numbers that showed that milestone wasn't so far out of reach after all.
He would finish the year with 575 points, giving him 1,046 for his career with point number 1,000 coming on an early jumper just minutes into the Panthers' home game against Hillsboro late in the season.
While his scoring was explosive, as he shot 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point land with a career best 54 treys, it didn't mean that he slacked in the other facets of the game.
Painter led the team in rebounds, assists and steals as well, averaging a career best 7.0 boards, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He also had 37 blocks, showing an athleticism that made opposing coaches cringe and college coaches drool.
But how? How had Painter turned a solid career into a spectacular one?
"This year I was just a little more comfortable with my team. Coach (Drew) Logan said I was going to have to have a big year... so I did," Painter said with a smile and a slight shrug.
Logan had a slightly more in depth answer when asked about Painter's emergence as one of the top Class 2A players in the state.
"Obviously the things he can do on the court, everybody else sees. The biggest growth he had was the mental preparation for a game and his knowledge of what we were trying to do and execute that," Coach Logan said.
Logan also credited two of his fellow coaches, Dan Newkirk and Mark Elvers, for helping Painter figure out the other aspects of his game.
"I've had two players who maybe struggled a little bit with the mental aspect and coincidentally, as juniors, both of them ran track for Coach Newkirk," he explained. "He is one of the guys I give a lot of credit to for working with that mental aspect of the game, along with Coach Elvers."
Painter also mentioned his past coaches, including former coach and athletic director Patrick Reents, when asked who had influenced his game the most.
"He started telling me when I was a freshman that I had potential," Painter said of Reents.
Painter credited his parents, Kevin and Doreka Painter, for their emotional and financial support, which helped keep his dream of playing in college alive.
While he's done with basketball at LHS, Painter's big senior year may not be done yet. In just his second year of high school track, Painter has proven to be one of the top long jumpers and triple jumpers in the area. A trip to the IHSA state finals in May would be the cherry on top of a pretty remarkable year.
But make no mistake, Painter's athletic future is on the hardwood and those who have watched him the most the last four years are looking forward to things to come.
"Wesleyan has a really good recruiting class. It's going to be really good for Sam from the standpoint that he always rises to the challenge," said Coach Logan. "I'll be interested to see by Christmas what type of basketball player he has become."
Here's hoping for another masterpiece.