By MARCUS JACKSON
CHAMPAIGN — The last game that mattered for Illinois was a forgettable one for Brandon Paul.
Paul committed his seventh turnover with 44 seconds left in a 64-61 loss to Iowa at the Big Ten tournament. Seven seconds later, the junior committed a foul and was benched for the remainder of the game.
Fast forward to Paul’s senior season. He’s playing a new position — point guard — for a new coach — John Groce — who demands steady play at that position.
“I’ve just tried to make better decisions with the ball. I’ve watched a lot of film of myself and what defenses might be thrown at me. I want to be more sure with my passes and limit the careless turnovers,” Paul said. “I have a lot more confidence in myself, and every day I come in and push myself more than I did the day before.”
Paul started as the lead guard in Illinois’ 79-47 exhibition win against Lewis on Saturday. He had 11 points, five assists and three turnovers. He’ll get the nod in Sunday’s exhibition finale against West Chester (3 p.m., WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM), with sophomore Tracy Abrams serving as the backup.
“Limiting his turnovers,” Paul said when asked what coaches want to see from Abrams, who started 19 games as a freshman. “He’s a great ball handler; he makes good decisions with the ball. I just think he’s still maturing and just leading the team, and getting teammates open shots is one thing I think he can do best.”
Point well taken
Beat writer Marcus Jackson’s three best floor generals in the Big Ten:
Trey Burke Michigan
— Sophomore flirted with NBA last season, but he returned and was named a preseason All-American.
Aaron Craft Ohio State
— Junior considered the premier perimeter defender in the country. He’s no slouch on the offensive end, either.
Tim Frazier Penn State
— Senior led league in assists (6.2) and was second in scoring last season (18.8) en route to All-Big Ten honors.