Brandon Paul Much Improved As Sophomore

Everyone talks about the seniors and freshmen on the Illini basketball team, but the sophomores get overlooked. That may not be true all year as the second year players are all much improved and plan to show it on the court. Brandon Paul didn't have great stats in the first exhibition game, but he is one of the best players in practice.

Brandon Paul had a roller coaster ride as a freshman last year. He was a scoring machine the first couple of games, but he hit a wall and only began to recover late in the season. He is glad the experience is over, but he learned valuable lessons.

"Freshman year is over. Everything that happened last year is over. The ups and downs, the awards, stuff like that. We're trying to focus this year on getting better and having an even better year.

"Just looking at old game film, seeing how I reacted to things, I saw things I can do better this year. I'm focusing on staying consistent this year, working hard all season."

Paul has great athleticism and leaping ability, but he focused primarily on three point shots last year. Many missed their mark. He would have helped the team more by slashing to the basket and either stopping for short jumpers or finishing at the rim. He is working to improve his mid range game.

"Yeah. Sometimes I come to open gym and tell myself, 'Don't shoot any threes until you shoot two midrange shots.' That's something I push myself to strive for."

Of course, he still shoots threes.

"I've been working on my threes. I'm not forcing it too much now. I'm more relaxed now at the three point line. I'm putting better shots up."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber is trying to expand Paul's role further by giving him time at the point. He is more deliberate than many point guards, but he has an ability to initiate offense and set up teammates for open looks. Playing the position on a summer trip helped.

"I feel like I've made a lot of progress this year. I had a chance to go overseas in the summer and work on my ball handling skills as a point guard. I improved on my game, and I want to get more consistent and get better for the season."

The 6'-4" Paul believes he and fellow sophomores D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand will provide an anchor for the next three Illini teams.

"Yeah, I hang out with those guys and spend time with Joe, D.J. and Tyler. They're great guys, and at the same time we work hard on the court. We're prepared for our sophomore season.

"Last year, I thought we played a pretty good role on the team to help us be successful. This year we plan on doing the same thing but even better. The seniors push us, but at the same time we push them. They're fighting as well."

While his statistics were not outstanding in the first exhibition game with Lewis University, Weber believes Paul is showing a great deal of ability in practice.

"If you ask the coaches, for the first 13 practices he was our most consistent player. He probably deserved to start."

Paul was Weber's choice to rest Demetri McCamey during that contest.

"He's got to realize that at the point, once you bring it up you're a regular player. He made some tough passes. Just make the easy pass. I thought he tried to overdo it a little bit. Hopefully we can get him untracked because he has been very good in practice."

Paul is looking forward to the season.

"I'm real excited about the team this year. We had a lot of talent on the floor last year, but this year we have even more talent. The depth is gonna be crazy. We've got a lot of kids that can play. So I think we're gonna go far."

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