Beat writer Marcus Jackson chats at 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Submit questions any time.
Good afternoon. It's obviously been a very busy day with all the Darius Paul news. I spent the morning at the courthouse with Mary Schenk and we were in the courtroom for Paul's guilty plea and spent about a half hour with he and his parents and attorney. Pretty trying times for them, as you can imagine. We've got a lot of questions so I'll jump right in.
Marcus: The unfortunate full-year suspension of Darius Paul leads to a variety of questions.
- How serious for the 2014-15 season is the loss of Darius, considering the challenge ahead to sign another quality recruit when most of them have probably committed to other schools already? - Will Groce be trying to sign the best available player who fits the same mold as was planned for Darius, or at this late date will he take the best overall player available irrespective of position? - Is the severity of his suspension, reflecting not only underage drinking but also some other transgressions, maybe a signal to Darius that he should use this opportunity to transfer to another school? - I think Illinois was prepared to offer to Toronto's Montaque Gill-Caesar when he was still thinking of reclassifying to the class of 2014. Although Montaque has announced he will remain in the class of 2015, and seems inclined to Michigan State, might Groce take another run at signing him for 2014 to replace Darius?
Darius was the most talented offensive post player on the 2014-15 roster, so it's a somewhat significant loss for this team. Nnanna Egwu is still here and there's a chance Maverick Morgan can make a leap, but Paul was ready physically. Austin Colbert is another option and Leron Black, too.
This coaching staff always has its ear to the ground monitoring transfers, available players, etc., so they're doing their homework now to see what's out there. Nothing is in the works as of right now, though, but they'll be looking.
As far as the severity, I hope you've had a chance to read all our coverage today to understand this was the right move for the young man.
I don't know for certain at the moment what the rules are or what steps would need to be taken to reclassify again for Caesar.
Do you think there is a good chance that Paul will return to the Illini, or do players in this situation usually transfer out?
In speaking with Paul and the family this morning, their plan is for Darius to take care of his business and then return to play at and graduate from Illinois. But the basketball piece is so far down the list of their concerns right now.
"They're not discarding him or anything, but putting him in position to be successful and they want him to return and that was made very clear to us in our meetings with them since last fall," Cliff Paul Sr. said this morning.
Now that there is a wide open scholarship spot, is there even anyone left to fill it with? I'm guessing they would look for a transfer, but then that takes away from getting four players in the next year's class. What is the deadline for a player to transfer?
As of right now, no one has been identified as a candidate to take that open slot. That could change in the near future, but they're not that far along in the process right now. Ideally it would be a fifth-year guy to come in and help immediately. If I'm not mistaken, players have until the start of the fall semester to enroll at a new school.
With the Darius Paul suspension do you think they already have someone to replace him. I've seen young athletes do much worse than him and not get a year long suspension. I've noticed the girls added another recruit who are some of the other recruits Coach Bollant is looking at for 2015.
P.S. tell Coach Bollant to take a look at Khadaizha Sanders at Bishop McNamara
In fairness to you, the earlier question and possibly a few more to come, they were submitted before all of today's information was released. So with that being said, the yearlong suspension seems reasonable.
Yes, Matt Bollant added a 6-foot 1 forward, Alex Wittinger from Minnesota on Sunday night. She's one of the top players in that state. I think that coaching staff is eventually going to have a good thing going here.
Women's basketball is tougher to follow because there's not as much information as readily available and since I'm not following that team as closely as I follow the men, I can't tell you who else is on the list for 2015. But I'll pass along your suggestion.
Hey Marcus, with the loss of the Darius Paul scholarship this year, do you think this might stimulate a possible graduate transfer (like Ekey) who might not have othewise transfered but now may see this as a golden opportunity to play for the Ilini? I am thinking perhaps someone with ties to Illinois?
There's a possibility is could happen, but to my knowledge there's nothing in the works right now. All possibilities will be explored. I haven't studied it enough at this point to know who that guy might be.
The Paul suspension really puts a dent in our recovery process as a basketball program. We will once again have no inside post player, unless Leron Black can come in and wow us all (as he might). I totally get Groce did what he had to do and made an example of this young man, so as to prevent these episodes from happening in the future.
As a question does Paul lose a year of elgibility, his scholarship or any of the like? How many years of elgibility will he have left after sitting this year? I'm even wondering if he will bother staying with the program at this point. Thoughts?
Yes, Darius loses a year of eligibility since he's already redshirted. Once you enroll in school, you get five years to play four. When he does return, he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
As for staying with the program that's Darius' plan, the family's plan and the coaching staff's plan.
Has there been any reaction from the Paul family, as to the imposed suspension? Just wanted to hear if their opinion of Groce has changed.
Mary Schenk's got a story up:
I've got one up, too:
They support the decision of the coaching staff.
So why didn't Coach just kick him out of the university altogether? It would have just freed up a four year scholarship we could probably use.
Any chance he will still recruit another player to come here this year and fill that scholarship? I heard Sheldon Mitchell got out of his Wake Forest offer and is available. We could sure use a point guard.
Saving scholarships wasn't of the utmost importance with respect to this siutuation. But, as it stands right now, Darius Paul is not on scholarship, so there is one available.
All possibilities are on the table in terms of filling the open space on the roster. Not sure what the time frame would be on something like that, but the coaching staff will be looking.
Loved the article on Bragg on Sunday. What do you think the chances currently are of Illinois getting him? I see him as the type of recruit that could help take Illinois to the next level and open the door to more elite recruits
Love the Illini,
Decided to mix it up a little bit.
Thank you. I'd say Illinois has more than a realistic shot at landing Bragg, he and his people really like this Illinois staff. Kentucky will be very involved with that one, along with Illinois and a few others. He's a Top-10 player in the country, McDonald's All-American-type kid, it would be a huge get and one that could potentially open the door for others. Good players want to play with other good players.
Do you have an update on the point guard recruitment race for the Illini? Who is in favoirte? Who is a close (or distant) second and who is the dark horse?
It's hard to quantify these things and put percentages on them, but I think Illinois is in pretty good shape with Jawun Evans. Justin Robinson, too. Obviously, Jalen Brunson is the top target, but that one's going to be difficult.
Probably one of many on the subject. Losing Paul is also losing 5 fouls. If Egwu, Colbert, and Morgan all maintain their tendancy to foul (or get caught to be more appropriate) and assuming the freshman are foul prone, I see a real depth problem in the post. Will Groce pursue small ball as an option or possibly look for another Ekey type solution.
If I were Paul, I'd transfer again since this is an Illini sanction and not NCAA.
Is there a reason to assume the freshmen will be foul prone? Certainly if all those guys ends up in foul trouble, you're going to have some issues. Any team with four or five bigs who repeatedly get in foul trouble is going to be hurting. If your big guys are on the bench, you'll have to go small. Hill can still play some at the 4, but they really want him playing on the wing. And there is still the possibility of adding a player to alleviate that problem down low who would be eligible immediately.
As a former D1 athlete, what are your "ballpark" estimates (it's funny because you played baseball...) for the percentage of male athletes that participate in underage drinking and the percentage that use illegal street drugs?
Hard to believe but it's been almost exactly 10 years since I played my last college baseball game. Back in my day (I sound like an old man) I don't believe drug testing was as prominent as it is today. I think it happens more now. I think I was drug tested randomly once in my four years.. Other guys a bit more often. From my experience with guys I've known at other schools and in other sports across the country, I'd estimate maybe a quarter of athletes use street drugs, marijuana being the most common. The percentage might not even be that high, but it happens. When it comes to underage drinking it's much more common. I'd say up to 75 percent if not more. You'd probably find that to be consistent with college students across the board, athletes and non athletes.
Thanks for all the questions on what turned out to be a pretty eventful day. Make sure to check out all the coverage today on our website and in the paper tomorrow.