Groce suspends Darius Paul again

Illini basketball suspends Darius Paul for violating team rules while on foreign trip

Illinois basketball coach John Groce announced early Saturday that junior forward Darius Paul has been suspended for violating team rules while the team was on its foreign trip in France.

“Darius has been suspended indefinitely after violating team rules during our trip,” Groce said. “We have specific standards of behavior for every member of our team, and when those expectations are not met, there are consequences. Darius is returning home immediately, and we will evaluate his status with the team following our return to Champaign.”

Paul, the younger brother of former Illini player Brandon Paul, traveled with the team on its foreign trip but was not playing as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery.

This is the second time Groce has suspended Paul. The former MAC Freshman of the Year at Western Michigan, Paul sat out the 2013-14 season due to NCAA transfer rules and then was suspended for the entire 2014-15 season for "multiple transgressions," including an arrest for underaged drinking and resisting police. Paul spent last season at Lamar State College-Port Arthur, a junior college, and averaged 17.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He was expected to boost the Illini's post depth the last two seasons.

Now, his future with the Illini again looks murky.

Werner's take: The Illini have invested three years of scholarships into Darius Paul, who has not played a game yet with the Illini. But fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

Groce showed loyalty and compassion to Darius Paul and the Paul family. But Illinois has given him multiple opportunities and Darius Paul has simply not taken care of business off the court. It's hard to envision him ever taking the court for the Illini.

As for how this affects the 2015-16 team if Paul does not return, Illinois again has gone from a deep team to a roster-challenged team in just a few months. Coincidentally, it may be the second straight season Illinois has lost both point guard Tracy Abrams (two injuries) and Darius Paul (two suspensions). Abrams is the biggest lost because of his experience and position.

But if Paul does not return, the Illini no longer will have a deep post rotation. Paul was expected to back up both center Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black. Now, junior Maverick Morgan (2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg last season) and redshirt freshman Michael Finke will be relied on more, especially due to Black's foul issues.

Bigger picture, Groce's transfer plan has backfired. He invested heavily in transfers early in his tenure: adding Paul, Rayvonte Rice, Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks. It's safe to call Rice -- the leading scorer on the past two teams (though neither made the NCAA Tournament) -- an individual success. But Paul has added nothing on the court. The staff spent two years of scholarships on Cosby, only to get 19 games of subpar production. The staff invested two years of scholarships into Starks, only to get one season of underwhelming production.

While the additions made sense on paper for Groce to add proven commodities to the depleted roster he inherited, the results show the transfer plan has proven to be a failure. Hindsight is the best sight, but he would have been better off investing into culture-building prep prospects.


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