In late April, MAC Freshman of the Year and arguably Western Michigan’s top returning player, Darius Paul, informed the coaching staff he was transferring out of the program. This came as a shock to head coach Steve Hawkins as Paul, the younger brother of former Illinois star Brandon Paul, averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds and looked to be the focal point of the program for the remainder of his career.
Paul’s mother, Lynda, told MLive.com on April 24th that her son has a “desire to play at a higher level,” and that there were four schools in the state of Illinois that had reached out to him. She continued to say:
“We’re pretty astute basketball people here – we’re not going to let him go somewhere where it would be a situation where it’s not better than the Western Michigan basketball situation. That would be crazy; that would be absolutely crazy.”
In a tweet Darius sent out late Saturday night, he made it known that the University of Illinois was one of these four schools and is where he will be spending his next four years. Per NCAA rules, he will out during the 2013-14 season, but become eligible for the next three seasons beginning in 2014-15.
Western Michigan went 22-13 last season and lost to George Mason in the semifinals of the CBI. The 22 wins was the most since 2003-04 when the Broncos won 25 games en route to a #11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the team’s success, Paul ostensibly had a desire to take his game to a higher level and in a better conference. Prior to his commitment to Western Michigan in October of 2011, he boasted offers from several high-profile programs such as Florida, Marquette, Miami (FL), and Missouri among others. Over the weekend, he attended Brandon’s postseason banquet at Illinois while on an official visit to the school.
Paul is the fifth player to transfer to Illinois during John Groce’s short time in Champaign. Since the end of this season, he is the third transfer Illinois has received as Illinois State junior forward Jon Ekey and Seton Hall sophomore guard Aaron Crosby also elected to play for the Illini.
You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11