So… I guess he’s not “suspended” anymore. Because originally this whole thing was “Darius Paul suspended from team activities and will have to pay his own way”. He’s now chosen to attend Lamar State Port Arthur, a junior college in Texas, so he’s not “suspended” – he’s gone.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t return. He could play one year of junior college ball and then come right back to Illinois as a junior. I’m guessing that’s the plan at this point. He transfers out, he plays at the juco instead of sitting out practices here, and then he joins the Illini for the 2015/16 season. There’s even a chance we placed him there. Maybe Coach Groce knew the coaches there, or there’s some other connection that led Darius Paul to Port Arthur.
But the bottom line is this: he’s no longer a student at the University of Illinois. If he wants to play basketball here, he’ll have to sign an LOI in November. And a lot can happen between now and November.
Which means a lot of things, I think. I was trying to think through all of them driving home from work tonight. They include:
+ What will Rivals/Scout/247 do about this on their recruiting charts? Do we have three verbals for the 2015 class at this point? DJ Williams, Aaron Jordan, and Darius Paul? Or will Paul “verbal” to the Illini at some point and then he’ll be added to the lists. Is he uncommitted at this point?
+ What happens if recruiting goes really well? We always talk about oversigning by one in basketball and then letting it sort itself out by the next summer. Sometimes, that “sort it out” is having a conversation with the player who is least likely to play and telling him it’s time to move on. Sooo… what happens if we get three really solid verbals between now and November? Do we then part ways with Darius? Or are we thinking he definitely arrives on campus in just over a year and holding a spot for him?
+ How will we know if he’s meeting the guidelines necessary for re-joining the team if he’s in Port Arthur, Texas? Groce’s statement after Paul was suspended was that the coaching staff would “continue to support him through this process”. So now that there’s no process – at least no Champaign process – what does that mean? I guess it could be as simple as “you’re not playing here next year” and then next May they’ll have a conversation and decide if he can re-join the team. But what if we don’t have any spots left at that point?
+ Let’s say for a second that he doesn’t return. That he plays at Port Arthur and then ends up at Iowa State in 2015. How does that change our recruiting? I’ve been saying “a lead guard and a big” for a long time now – what does that look like when we have three available. Lead guard, big, and… either Darius Paul or a Darius Paul clone that can play the 4/5? If we do add that big in the 2015 class, maybe that last scholarship should go to another guard/wing?
+ Why Texas? Why not Parkland?
+ Most importantly, does this just mean he’s gone? It could be that simple, right? We suspended him, he didn’t want to follow the guidelines of that suspension, so we’ve parted ways and he’s off to Texas (and then headed back to D-1 basketball in 2015). The simplest scenario is likely the correct answer, right?
I’m guessing a statement will be released in the next few days, and that statement will answer a lot of these questions. Does he still intend to return? Are we holding a scholarship for him? Was this a parting of ways? I could keep going.
One more question: if he does verbal again, do I need to re-assign Tom Cruises?
Update – Here’s the press release from Friday afternoon:
Darius Paul, a 6-foot-8 forward who spent last year at the University of Illinois, is joining Lamar State College-Port Arthur for the 2014-15 season.
Paul earned Freshman of the Year accolades in the Mid-American Conference at Western Michigan after averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman. He sat out the 2013-14 season per NCAA transfer rules. Paul was originally expected to contribute for Illinois in the upcoming campaign, but received a one-year suspension after what UI Coach John Groce described as “multiple transgressions.” Coach Groce did not go into detail about specific incidences.
“Lamar State College-Port Arthur provides a family environment where student-athletes can attain academic achievement, athletic success and personal growth,” Seahawks Head Coach Lance Madison said. “Lamar State-Port Arthur provides the resources necessary for student-athletes to achieve their goals.”
Paul transferred from Western Michigan to play for the Fighting Illini, following in his brother’s footsteps. Brandon Paul is a former Illinois star guard and Illinois Mr. Basketball.
“Lamar State-Port Arthur is the perfect fit for Darius,” Illinois Head Coach John Groce said. “I have known Coach Madison for many years and have a tremendous amount of respect for the way he coaches and mentors young men. In speaking with Darius and his family, I know they are determined to take full advantage of this opportunity he has in Texas. I am confident that Darius will grow as a person, student and player during his time at the college. Illini Nation is behind him.”