While Writing Illini hasn’t done one of these in a while, here’s Part I of the Illinois Basketball (i.e., Fall) Summer School series on sophomore guard Brandon Paul, a raw player who has the talent and athleticism to play in the NBA if continuing to develop and play with more patience and control in the next couple of seasons.
Throughout his freshman campaign, Paul displayed some flashes of brilliance but played too fast too often, resulting in some bad shots and difficult shooting nights, as detailed in this game-by-game breakdown of his first season in an Illinois uniform.
Makes a splash in his first game as an Illini with not only a nasty fohawk but a school record for points (22) in a freshman debut, thus surpassing Deon Thomas’ record (21 points) set in 1990 while also going 8-for-15 from the field (4-for-6 from three) and adding 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Continues to set the bar high, scoring 14 of Illinois’ first 21 points, leading the Illini with 20 points on 6-for-16 from the field (4-for-8 from three), and contributing 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal and 1 assist (versus 3 turnovers) in 29 exciting minutes.
After an incredible first two games, comes back down to earth a bit, struggling with this three-point shot (0-for-4) and finishing with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals during an easy Illini victory.
Hits a beautiful pop-back jumper to start the game, but only gets one more shot the rest of the way (finishing 2-for-2 from the field, scoring 6 points total and adding 1 rebound and 2 assists versus 2 turnovers), as first-half foul trouble results in just 20 minutes of playing time against the pesky Terriers.
Struggles during Illinois’ first loss of the season, finishing just 1-of-7 from the field (and 0-for-2 from three), scoring 5 points and turning the ball over 3 times (versus 0 assists) in 23 ineffective minutes.
Is benched in favor of Alex Legion and gets just 15 minutes off the bench en route to finishing with 7 points (2-for-5 from the field, 1-4 from three), 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers during another disappointing loss for the Illini.
Looks like a seasoned veteran as opposed to a star-struck freshman during his first true collegiate road game, playing with no fear around the basket, doing a terrific job of causing havoc in the passing lanes, and finishing with an impressive 20 points (6-12 from the field, 3-7 from three), 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block and 3 assists (versus 2 turnovers) in 32 minutes of an improbable and unforgettable Illini comeback win.
Is like the rest of his teammates during a sloppy, up-and-down win against Boise State, playing great in spurts while losing concentration at other points before finishing with 10 points (4-for-10 from the field, 2-for-5 from three), 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 assist (versus 2 turnovers) in 23 minutes.
Final stat line of 7 points (3-for-9 from the field, 1-for-3 from three), 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 5 assists (versus 1 turnover) may not look like much but is reflective of a solid, controlled and all-around floor game on a night when the Illini played with great urgency and focus while handling the ranked Commodores from start to finish.
Finishes with 5 points (1-for-4 from the field, 0-2 from three), 3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 assist (versus 2 turnovers) as first-half foul trouble limits him to just 14 total minutes during an Illini blowout victory.
Looks like a true freshman in this “neutral site” game, straying from the motion and frequently forcing his offense, struggling to guard Georgia’s Travis Leslie, and looking a step slow all night en route to just 4 points (on 1-for-5 shooting, 0-1 from three), 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 1 assist versus 2 turnovers during 15 ineffective minutes.
Is quiet until late in the first half, when he provides a spark, and plays with good urgency in the second half, but it’s not enough as he struggles with some of his shot selection and defensive closeouts during an 11-point (4-for-8 from the field, 3-4 from three), 4-rebound, 1-steal and 1-assist (versus 2 turnovers) performance in 19 minutes.
Gets benched at halftime after a very quiet first half but responds with a strong second half, doing a much better job of running the NU players off the three-point line and providing a spark with his activity and three-point shooting en route to 8 points (2-for-7 from the field, 2-5 from three), 3 rebounds and 1 assist (versus 0 turnovers) during 18 minutes of an overtime victory.
Had some freshman mental breakdowns and missed a difficult, game-winning three at the overtime buzzer, but actually had a very solid game, providing a spark late in the first half and early in the second half with his slashing abilities, having no turnovers in 37 minutes and finishing with 17 points (5-15 from the field, 2-9 from three), 1 rebound and 3 steals during a disheartening loss.
Is benched after a quiet first half during which he forced some shots but plays under much better control in the second half before finishing with 6 points (2-7 shooting, 0-3 from three), 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 3 assists (versus 2 turnovers) in 15 up-and-down minutes.
Benched at the start of this game (and for the rest of the season) for Bill Cole and only plays 8 total minutes, with Illinois head coach Bruce Weber seemingly losing some confidence in the freshman, who ends up with 1 point (0-4 from the field, 0-1 from three), 1 rebound and 2 steals.
Has maybe his worst game of the season, seemingly hitting a freshman wall as he goes scoreless (0-5 from the field, 0-3 from three) and contributes just 1 rebound and 1 assist (versus 1 turnover) in 7 minutes,.
Gives much better energy but continues to struggle with his shot selection and control in Big Ten play, scoring 8 points (3-11 from the field, 1-6 from the field) and adding 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 assist (versus 3 turnovers) but picking up a technical as his frustrations boil over in the second half.
Provides some good production off the bench early in the first half before losing his shooting touch and finishing with 5 points (2-8 from the field, 1-2 from three), 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal during 15 minutes that may not look great but were much better than previous Big Ten games.
Doesn’t have a very efficient scoring effort (12 points on 4-for-10 from the field, 1-4 from three) but plays a strong, controlled floor game (5 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover) in 23 minutes that might have been his best performance in the Big Ten season up to that point.
Has a tremendous first half off the bench, scoring all 10 of his points in the first 20 minutes, before taking a step back in the second half, where he committed some silly fouls and fouled out late in the game.
Does a really nice job on the boards (6 rebounds), especially in terms of attacking the offensive glass, but is still too up-and-down for the most part, resulting in only 11 minutes during which he scored 4 points (1-6 from the field, 0-2 from three, 2-2 from the line) and added 1 assist (versus 1 turnover).
Is really out-of-control during this ugly road win, forcing some bad shots en route to just 2 points (1-7 from the field, 0-2 from three), 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 12 minutes.
Follows an ineffective first half with a very active and inspiring second half, using his athleticism to do a lot of damage on the offensive glass, playing tough around the rim, getting in the passing lane, and finishing with 8 points (4-10 from the field, 0-2 from three), 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 assist (versus 1 turnover) in 21 big-time minutes.
Cannot sustain the momentum from the Michigan State victory, going scoreless (0-3 from the field, 0-2 from three) and picking up 3 fouls during just 8 minutes at the intimidating Kohl Center, where the Illini pull out a shocker.
On a Valentine’s Day when the entire Illini team struggled miserably, is plagued once again by taking some bad shots and playing way too fast, resulting in 6 points (2-8 from the field, 2-6 from three), 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 16 minutes.
Provides a big spark in the first half, combining some tough finishes around the rim with some clutch threes, and plays with a lot of toughness en route to 13 points (4-10 from the field, 3-7 from three) and 1 turnover in 18 minutes that weren’t perfect but much better than most of his Big Ten season.
With the exception of 3 turnovers in just 15 minutes, has a pretty decent game, using his pogo-stick ability on the glass to finish with 5 points (2-5 from the field, 0-2 from three), 4 rebounds and 1 assist.
Struggles mightily with his outside shooting (1-9 from the field, 1-6 from three) en route to 6 points, 1 block and 1 assist (versus 1 turnover), but does a very nice job on the glass, as evidenced by his 9 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive boards.
Forces some bad shots at times but provides a nice spark in the first half, in large part due to playing more around the rim as opposed to outside the three point line, and finishes with 11 points (5-12 from the field, 0-4 from three), 2 rebounds and 2 assists (versus 1 turnover) in 18 minutes.
Was a spark in spurts and made some little plays that didn’t show up in the box score, but struggled with taking and making shots on another tough night from the field (1-7 overall, 1-4 from three, 2-3 from the free throw line) en route to 5 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Plays with great focus and patience and does a lot of little things well in a must-win game for the Illini, even if his final stat line of 1 point (0-2 from the field, 0-0 from three, 1-2 from the free throw line), 4 rebounds and 1 assist (versus 2 turnovers) doesn’t indicate much.
Finishes with just 3 points (1-5 from the field, 1-4 from three) and fouls out in 19 minutes, but has a masterful floor game in the first half, playing under control, getting Jon Diebler in foul trouble with aggressive yet controlled driving, and doing a lot of things well (4 rebounds, 1 steal and 4 assists versus 2 turnovers).
Has his third-straight game during which he played within himself and was thus very effective, as evidenced by his solid defensive effort on Mohammad El-Amin and solid if not spectacular final stat line of 9 points (3-7 from the field, 0-1 from three, 3-4 from the free throw line), 6 rebounds and 1 assist (versus 1 turnover) in 21 minutes.
Hardly fantastic or awful, is much steadier on the court as he finishes with 9 points (3-6 from the field, 0-1 from three, 3-5 from the line), 3 rebounds and 1 turnover, and starts cutting into Bill Cole’s playing time, as evidenced by his 22 minutes.
Starts the second half for Cole as he is a better athletic matchup against the Flyers but finishes his freshman season with another rough shooting night (1-7 from the field, 1-5 from three) en route to 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 assist (versus 1 turnover) in 26 minutes.
Sometime next week, I’ll get up Part II on Brandon Paul, including a recap of his freshman season, a look at his statistics, a scouting report, some areas of improvement for this upcoming season, and some projections for the 2010-2011 campaign and beyond.
Topics: Alex Legion, Assembly Hall, Basketball, Bill Cole, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Illini Basketball, Illinios Fighting Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Jon Diebler, Kohl Center, Mohammad El-Amin, Travis Leslie, U-of-I Basketball, University Of Illinois