Brandon Paul committed to play for the University of Illinois in the fall of his junior year at Warren High School in Gurnee. Nearly two years later, he is finally on campus competing with his teammates. He is glad his time has come.
"It's definitely a lot more fun. I'm no longer walking around high school, saying to everyone I can't wait to get there. I'm finally here, so I'm excited."
It may be fun, but it does require him to accept significant change in his life.
"It's a lot different from high school. Obviously, high school is a little bit easier. But when you get to college, it requires a big adaptation, getting used to stuff. But it's still fun."
Paul is happy to begin his college career, but he is not ready to sever his ties to his home.
"Yeah, I get homesick. I try to go back home and hang out with my friends and my buddies. I talk to them pretty much every day."
One of his obligations as a scholarship athlete at a major college is working with the media. When finally permitted to speak publicly, Paul was surrounded by reporters looking for an angle. He tolerated the pressure well. It was both exciting and nerve wracking for him, but he realizes it is good preparation for what lies ahead.
"It's exciting just to know your fans are watching, and they're like family. I know there will always be people up there criticizing everything you do. So I just want to fight through the adversity and work hard."
Paul is working harder than ever before, especially in the weight room. He is getting bigger and stronger.
"It's definitely a lot different than high school. The workouts are helping me out alot. They definitely work on our nutrition here. I guess I'm a little bigger."
"Definitely. Living and playing with each other, we're getting better and working hard. We're looking forward to the season."
They have been aided by Chester Frazier, still considered a student athlete, who is serving as an informal player coach while Weber and his staff are out recruiting.
"Yeah, he takes it serious. If you're not working hard, he lets you know and makes sure you're playing harder. He's getting us prepared for the season."
Frazier is also helping them learn the complexities of the offense and defense.
"We've been doing some things with Chester. We're learning the offense little by little. It's only gonna get harder, so I just have to keep pace and work hard."
Paul has both personal and team goals.
"I can't wait for the season. I definitely want to help the team be successful and just work hard on the court and help everybody else be successful as well as myself. And I want to grow as a person."
After a few weeks of pickup games, Paul is confident he can be an asset for the Illini.
"I definitely think I fit into this team as a player. If I keep working hard, I'll be successful."