The Windy City Source is profiling the top 12* players in the Big Ten Conference for the upcoming season. The reason we say “12*” is because rather than choosing the best players regardless of school, we will be taking 1 player from each team. Some players will be obvious, others not so much. And in case you forgot, Nebraska is in the conference now! Anyways – here’s the first part of four, featuring players from the “I” schools:
* Brandon Paul – Illinois junior from Gurnee, IL
Bruce Weber’s team will be experiencing a huge turnover this season with the loss of four seniors (three started), a one-and-done freshman (now an alleged criminal) and the addition of six freshman and a senior transfer. Normally teams would have a tough time recovering losing three senior leaders and a star freshman, but in Illinois’ case the turnover is for the better. The culture of the Fighting Illini program has been more of a “me first” situation. With Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond gone, Weber will have cleared his team of almost all of last season’s headaches in one swoop. Now the team is turned over to the underclassmen, led by junior guard Brandon “BP3″ Paul. Having been a solid contributor in his first two years, Paul (9 ppg) will take on a serious leadership position this season. Paul improved his stats across the board from his freshman to sophomore years, which can be partially attributed to an increase of minutes. It’s safe to say Weber will rely on Paul for more than 22.4 minutes a game this year. The most encouraging numbers are his FG, 3FG and FT percentages. Paul has shown that he can be a lethal shooter and is a tremendous athlete (my apologies to Carlton Fay). Brandon poured in 20+ points three times in conference play last year, hitting 4 three-pointers on two of those occasions. As the top returning scorer, Paul will certainly need to put points on the board if the Illini want to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Paul has the ability to play the one, two, or three, which makes him a versatile asset in a guard-heavy lineup.
Along with junior DJ Richardson, sophomore Meyers Leonard, Bradley senior-transfer Sam Maniscalco and a parade of highly-ranked Chicago freshmen, the Illini will have a fresh look that should have fans feeling good about the future. (more…)