Illinois coach Bruce Weber was front and center as Brandon Paul led his Warren High School team to a 54-42 victory over Chicago Curie and sophomore star Wayne Blackshear Saturday. Paul garnered 17 points and 9 rebounds but preferred to talk about his team.
"I think it went pretty well. We came out pretty hard and kept our focus throughout the game. We have a lot of seniors step up this year. I knew it was just a matter of time before I got a little more help. They showed this game they can all play."
A major factor in the win was Paul's defense on sophomore sensation Wayne Blackshear, ranked #8 in his class by Scout.com.
"Yeah, I knew he was one of their main offensive weapons. I just wanted to shut him down and limit their scoring options for him."
The rebound total was pleasing to Brandon.
"Yeah, I wanted to get more offensive and defensive rebounds to help my team out. I want to do more than just score, like assists, defensive stops, things like that."
Ranked as the top senior in Illinois this year, Paul definitely has improved in a year. He has played against top players all over the country and knows he must continue to work to meet his ambitious goals.
"I've been working on my all-around skill. I've been working on my ball movement, and that has improved the most, plus my consistent jump shot. I still have a lot more to go. There are a lot of players just like me, so I've got to keep progressing."
Warren coach enjoyed telling assembled media all about his star pupil.
"It's an interesting thing about Brandon. He's improved in every area of his game. But I still feel like he's just touching the surface.
"He IS improved as a ball-handler, he doesn't turn the ball over very much. He makes the good pass. He can see over the defense, and that leads him to some of those one and two bounce drives that he got at the beginning of the half. In the third quarter tonight, I think a big key was him getting to the basket and scoring three times in a row at least.
"He shoots the three very well. When he shoots open threes, he really shoots a good percentage. Sometimes, he gets caught up and gets rushed or hurried. But when he stays away from that and is aggressive going to the basket, it also puts him in line for offensive rebounds. He's a tremendous offensive rebounder. I don't know how much of that he'll be doing down here since guards tend to get back on defense. But he can really get up there.
"He's a pretty good free throw shooter, you want him at the line. He's a really good rebounder at both ends. And that's with guarding the best player (Blackshear) today. He doesn't always guard the best player, but a lot of times he'll guard the best player the last quarter. I try to keep him out of foul trouble."
In the past, Brandon was known more for being a great athlete rather than a top basketball player. Coach Ramsey says that earlier assessment has evolved.
"He's a great athlete AND a very good basketball player who's not reached his full potential. Anybody can see that."
Paul enjoyed playing for Illini fans in a facility that will be his home for the next four years.
"It's really fun coming out here and seeing a lot of fans. I just had to come out and put a show on."
He has been playing with and communicating with his future teammates for some time now. He looks forward to next year.
"I've been playing with them for a little bit everytime I come to Illinois, and it's really exciting. I can't wait to get here."
Waukegan junior Illini commitment Jereme Richmond threw down the gauntlet by saying he expected the future Illini to win a National Championship. Without hesitation, Paul agreed.
"Definitely. We want to come here and just do our best, play hard and try to get a national title. I think he's right."