Western Michigan coaches got quite a shock on Tuesday when Darius Paul, a 6-foot-8 freshman that averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 boards en route to the MAC Freshman of the Year award, told the staff that he was transferring out of the program.
“I had no idea this was coming. Darius came to me (Monday) afternoon and we sat down and had a long visit, then he told me what was on my mind,” Broncos coach Steve Hawkins told MLive.com. Paul had even signed a lease for an apartment in Kalamazoo for the 2013-2014 school year.
Paul, an Illinois native and the younger brother of former Illini star Brandon Paul, hinted at “recent events” convincing him to transfer in that MLive.com story, and a follow-up may bring to light exactly what the motivating factor was.
“What if ESPN calls you? You get your resume ready and based on your production, based on your preparation, you feel like you’re ready.”
“I’m just telling all the people who call, we’re looking for a high-major program where Darius can be an elite player; where he’ll have an opportunity to be an elite player,” Lynda Paul said. “He’s 6-9, 225 (pounds); he’s got 4 or 5 percent body fat. He’s already got an elite body. He’s just looking for a place to be an elite player.”
Darius looks like he’s heading to a bigger program.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.