Illlinois sophomore guard Brandon Paul was given an opportunity to travel to Europe for the first time. He enjoyed the sightseeing, but his thoughts were on basketball.
"It was a great time. I had a great experience. We got to play with players from different schools. Tyler and I had a good time. And we played good basketball for five games, so that's always a good thing.
"I played point guard, so I tried to work on my ball handling skills, distributing the ball, getting people open. At the same time, getting to my own shot."
"I think it was a good opportunity for me to play against good competition overseas. It was my first time doing that. Being able to have the ball in my hands all the time, it helps me improve my game so I can play multiple positions when I get out there."
Paul realizes there are good players everywhere. Becoming one of the best requires a strong work ethic.
"It helps me to come back here and do the things I have to do to focus on the season. It just shows if you want to be a good player, you've got to work hard. Those kids overseas are pretty good as well."
He believes he can now help out at point guard for Illinois when needed.
"Definitely. I took the ball a few times last year. I'm more used to it, so I'm going to continue to improve my game in the areas I need to help Demetri (McCamey) if he needs help taking the ball up the court."
Perhaps the biggest benefit from a trip like this is the confidence one can gain. Paul sometimes played tight last year, something he hopes to change this season.
"Sometimes I come in and rush things, so having the extra experience helps you to calm down a little bit, take things as it is. I realized last year I took a couple ill-advised shots here and there, so I wanted to focus on getting to the basket more.
"I think it's a little bit easier (from the point guard position). You make the decisions on the court. You have the ball all the time, so you decide what you are going to do. I shot well, but at the same time I got to the basket more. So that was a good thing."
He feels he is much better prepared this year than during his freshman season.
"I feel good. It's my sophomore year, and I learned a lot of things I should do better last year, and some things to stay away from. I'm looking to develop better habits on the court as well as off the court like finishing up my homework so I don't have to worry about it on trips. I'm looking forward to it."
Paul is also looking forward to helping the Illini reach their lofty goals.
"We're gonna go real far this year. The expectations are even higher than last year. I think we're gonna impress a lot of people."