Though he's just a sophomore, Paulus knows that CBA's basketball fortunes lie largely in his hands, and was quick to point the finger of blame at himself. "I take the responsibility. I didn't play well today," he said, his frustration with the loss apparent. "I don't know. I got a lot of good looks. [CTK guard Mitch Beauford, who guarded Paulus for much of the game] played good defense, but I have to make some of the shots that I got."
What was clear was Paulus' talent and potential, despite the sub par performance. One of the hottest national commodities in the Class of 2005, the 6-2 point guard is already drawing interest from several big-time colleges, and has already fielded offers from schools in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Atlantic 10, and other conferences. He listed offers from Syracuse and Notre Dame specifically, as well as interest from Duke and a previously-reported "soft offer" from North Carolina.
At this game, Paulus drew Matt Doherty, Leonard Hamilton, Rick Pitino, Xavier assistant Sean Miller, and Cleveland Browns WR Kevin Johnson, a Syracuse alumnus, courtside to observe his performance.
Despite his self-deprecation, Paulus still put up good numbers, amassing 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and only 3 turnovers against the quick, athletic Royals backcourt. His shooting statistics -- 6-22 FG, 4-10 3pt -- show cause for his frustration, though many misses were forced late as attempts to get the Brothers back in the game.
On the court, Paulus is a blur. Quick with the ball and fast end-to-end, he loves to push the tempo. He plays in top gear, setting up his teammates for easy baskets with pinpoint passes -- though they didn't always convert to assists in this game. Even though his percentages were poor, he has the look of a deadly outside shooter, and was a few bad bounces and rim-outs from putting up a truly extraordinary scoring total in this game.
On top of his physical talents, it takes only a moment of speaking to him to understand that this highly sought-after talent also possesses uncommon maturity. Also a standout on the gridiron, Paulus has a unique approach to his recruitment: enjoy it.
"It's fun. You got to have fun with it, because it's only going to happen once in a lifetime," he said.
Paulus also has a pretty good idea of what he's looking for on the next level. "A good education," he said. "You have to get the education first of all, in case basketball doesn't work out."
"It has to be a good environment, a good fit for me. For basketball, it has to be the style of play that I like to play, and I've got to have a good relationship with the head coach," he added. He also said that, while he hasn't ruled out playing football in college, he's leaning towards basketball right now.
Paulus also explained what the "soft offer" he has from UNC means, as he understands it. "If I go down there for a visit, and I like [Coach Doherty], and he likes me, then it will kind of be like a marriage" -- a marriage many schools, including Carolina, are hoping to engage in.
While Paulus does not have a leader at this time, it is already clear that he will be at the center of a national battle over the course of his recruitment, and one of the most sought-after players in his class.