Starks, Paul stopping by

Starks, Paul stopping by

CHAMPAIGN — In trying to rebuild the Illinois basketball roster, John Groce has gone the transfer route.

Last month Seton Hall combo guard Aaron Cosby and Illinois State forward Jon Ekey became the third and fourth players, respectively, to make a pledge to Illinois since Groce took the job last year.

By week’s end, that list might be as long as six with Oregon State guard Ahmad Starks making a visit to the UI campus today and Western Michigan forward Darius Paul scheduled to visit Friday.

Starks, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Chicago’s Whitney Young, started 73 games in three seasons at Oregon State, averaging 10.2 points and shooting 37 percent from behind the three-point line. Starks has said he’s leaving the Beavers so he can be closer to home and his ailing grandmother in Chicago. Starks, who has one year of eligibility remaining, is seeking a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to play immediately without having to sit out a year per the normal transfer rules.

The 6-9, 225-pound Paul is the younger brother of former Illinois standout Brandon Paul, who finished his senior season with the Illini.

The younger Paul completed his inaugural season at Western Michigan, where he was named the Mid-American Conference’s Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Paul has been contacted by several major programs since announcing his decision to leave Western Michigan last week. The Paul family has stated Darius, who would have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2013-14 season, is looking to play at a higher level than the midmajor MAC.

Last year, Groce took Champaign’s Rayvonte Rice, a transfer from Drake, who will be eligible this season after sitting out 2012-13. Sam McLaurin played for the Illini last season as a fifth-year transfer from Coastal Carolina.

Illinois will welcome five freshmen for the 2013-14 season along with Ekey, who is eligible immediately. Cosby, who has two years of eligibility, must sit out this season.

“For us, it made a lot of sense because of where we are right now,” Groce said earlier this week about the influx of transfers into the program. “We want to try to balance experience a little more with our youth and we were able to do that with some transfers.”

The Illini have one scholarship available for next season’s team.


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Moonpie wrote on May 02, 2013 at 6:05 am

Th Trib reported Paul as 6-7, but the Sleepy Gazoo has promoted him to 6-9. Hype, hype, hype.

And is the kid any good? After all, he apparently can't cut it at WMU.

Reporting? Not so much.

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 12:05 pm

(I know I should know better than to respond to this lunatic. I've only read one correct thing he's ever written, I suspect he's a troll, and he never responds to anyone calling out his BS anyway. But I'm bored.)

So averaging double figures as a freshman, being named the top rookie in the league and transferring for the dual reasons of being good enough to play in the best conferences and coaches at your current school that you're close with leaving means you "can't cut it." OK, cool.

Also: I don't know if you knew this, but sometimes, 18-19 year olds will grow more. (Darius's own brother, for example, is leaving Illinois at least an inch taller than when he got here. He wasn't much more than 6'3" when he got here and I'd be willing to wager he measures at least 6'4.5" at the combine.) I don't know what the Tribune reported, nor do I care. It's entirely possible they were being lazy and just going by an old Rivals recruiting profile that listed Paul at 6'7". Paul's old school listed him at 6'8", 220. Yes, adding an extra inch and five pounds, something that easily could have happened in the last week, much less since a year ago when his profile on WMU's athletics page was created.

I guess Joe Hendricksen is also in the business of cheerleading for Illinois basketball, since he also referenced Paul being 6'9".

Seriously, HQ. I know someone's moderating this stuff because I've had posts deleted. Why has no one banned this tool?

sinfonian11 wrote on May 02, 2013 at 8:05 am

Not sure where Marcus got 6'9", 225. Maybe he grew during his freshman year. WMU has him listed at 6'8", 220. But he's not leaving because "he can't cut it." Kid was the freshman of the year in his conference and wants to play at a higher level. Can he cut it in the Big Ten? No idea, but your reading comprehension skills need work.

Curious George wrote on May 02, 2013 at 9:05 am

As seen in the NCAA tournament year-in and year-out:  There are plenty of mid-major players that not only do well against major conference teams, but actually excel.  I'll trust Coach Groce and his staff to make the necessary evaluations.   

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Agreed. And not only that, but it seems as if people forgot this was a rebuilding situation that Groce was left by Weber. Illinois needs players, and the source of them is irrelevant.

It's great that Groce has gotten seriously involved with several 5-star prospects, but there's only been two points in the program's history in which we got several of those prospects in a short time: the mid-late 80's (Nick, Lowell, Liberty, Deon) and the late 90's (Griffin, Frankie, Cook). Like Marcus has said repeatedly in chats, it's a huge victory if we get any of those guys in 2014. Two is a huge longshot, and all three just ain't happening.

ptevonian wrote on May 02, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Taking either Starks or Paul reduces the available 2014 scholarships to 1.  That would mean we'd only have room for either Cliff Alexander OR Jaquan Lyle, but not both (assuming no transfers, because pretty much the entire team will be in Year 1, and not many guys transfer after just 1 season). 

Maybe coach is already getting a read that one or both of those blue chip guys aren't coming and he's looking to shore up those spots.  Neither Paul nor Starks is likely to be as effective as a 4 or 5-star recruit, but you can never tell.

As a detail -- the NCAA waiver rules for Starks require the school to be within 100 miles of the immediate family member's home.  Last I checked, Rt 57 is almost a direct shot from Whitney Young High School (where Starks went, and presumbly somewhat close to his grandmother) to UIUC.  And it's 141 miles.  I'd be surprised if his grandmother lived 41 miles southwest of Whitney Young, in the Peotone area.  Then again, Bradley (the other school he is considering) is 120 miles from Whitney Young, too, as the crow flies...

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I'm guessing Groce wouldn't be interested in Starks if he had to sit out a year to just play one year. For one- and I'm about to break my own rule and stupidly worry about scholarship numbers when we all know coaches can work that out as needed- if both Starks and Paul signed up that'd eliminate the '14 scholarships. Also, Starks basically brings the same things to the table that Cosby brings: sharpshooting combo guard with a little bit of playmaking ability, except he's 6 inches shorter. I'm aware of the rule's guidelines but Starks is transferring from Oregon to Champaign (hypothetically) to be close to family members in Chicago. I'm guessing the NCAA is OK with that. 


"Neither Paul nor Starks is likely to be as effective as a 4 or 5-star recruit, but you can never tell."

I'll just focus on Paul for this one, since Starks basically is who he is at this point. For one thing, your statement is far too vague. Will Paul be as good as a one and done-caliber 5-star? Almost certainly not. But he was a late-bloomer, who, as a senior, absolutely played at a 4-star level. He was a steal for Western Michigan because of that; 6'8", 220-pounders who can rebound and play inside-out on offense don't make their way to the MAC that often. I bet he would've ended up being the best player in that conference.

Like I said before, I think it's reasonable to argue that Paul would be as good or better in 2014-15 at nearly 21 years of age as Leron Black would be at age 18 that same year.

jjohnson wrote on May 02, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Moonpie, I thought Loren was your "Sleepy Gazoo." Before you dump on someone else for not reading, learn to do so yourself. Clearly, you have the proverbial constipation of good sense and diarrhea of the keyboard.

TheChiefLives wrote on May 03, 2013 at 7:05 am

Moonpie's world:

Sleepy Gazoo = News Gazette

Bushleague Jackson = Marcus Jackson

Oracle Tate = Loren Tate


Try not to dive any deeper into his logic than that, for it is a convoluted bottomless abyss of pessimism and insanity.

chief illiniweg wrote on May 02, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Starks is going to be a senior so he does NOT impact at 2014 scholarship. He is a no-brainer to take, if NCAA spots him 20 miles or so...Can always use another ball handler, plus he can shoot the 3 and has three years of major college experience.

Paul is another story as that does impede taking a 2014 stud. That said, who knows if Egwu can make a Myles Leonard leap and become a lottery pick and leave early. Then Groce can take them all!

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 12:05 pm


Meyers. Not Myles.

And stop worrying about scholarship numbers. We should've all learned by now that those things sort themselves out. Also, coaches like proven commodities, especially when they aren't a damaged-goods transfer, which neither Paul nor Cosby is.

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 12:05 pm

A few thoughts:

-I hope eventually, our fanbase will smarten up a bit and stop worrying about scholarship numbers. As we've seen, those things have a way of working out. I swear, we just went through this. If two 5-star players wanted to commit to Illinois tomorrow, one way or another the scholarships would be available. If you want to be naive to how college basketball works and think our coaching staff is committing some greivous sin, go ahead and think that if it makes you feel better.

-Pretending for a second that scholarship situations are inflexible, any of the 2014 5-stars we're recruiting, even if we're in as good of shape as we can be, are longshots. It's like with earlier success than was envisioned that people forgot this was a rebuilding situation. It's a roster that needs players. Groce's transfers or targeted transfers (including Paul and Starks) were all either on their way to being the best players in mid-major conferences or have proven themselves as quality players in major conferences. Or, in the case of McLaurin and Ekey, were 5th-year guys filling specific roles who aren't affecting future schollie numbers. 

-If the younger Paul transfers here, I'm comfortable saying that every transfer Groce will have taken so far is a good one. Cosby is a great shooter who can play either guard and has proven himself against the best of the Big East. No-brainer. (I say that knowing full well we have fans whose brains don't work, but somehow find their way onto the internet anyway.) Ekey isn't taking up a future scholarship and fills two needs also: help in the power forward rotation, and three-point shooting. Also a no-brainer. Rice would have been one of the most prolific scorers in America- pretty reasonable to surmise that he would've have averaged 20 a game his last two years at Drake- had he stayed at the mid-major level and will be a very good one at the Big Ten level, and will possibly be Illinois' best player in '13-14, and even if not is still the leading candidate to be the scoring leader. Paul is an athletic 6'8" kid who can play inside and out and is the ideal 4 man in Groce's system. He was a late bloomer that, had he put up the kind of numbers as a junior that he did as a senior (went from 11 and 7 to 19 and 10), probably would have been a Top 100 recruit.

-Talking about Paul specifically, he has a very similar game and body to Leron Black. Maybe not quite as athletic, but it's reasonable to take a proven Division I player instead of hoping a guy who is probably a longshot recruit will pick your school, especially when a decent argument could be made that the transfer will be as good of a college player as the longshot recruit.

-Again going with the incorrect assumption that scholarship numbers will never change (I mean, seriously....we just went through this a month ago, people. Learn something)....Lyle and Black are very, very good players. But the only one who's an immediate program-changer is Alexander. There will absolutely be a scholarship available for him, if nothing else. Looking specifically to 2014-15, you could argue that a 22-year old Cosby and 21-year old Paul will be better than a 18/19-year old Lyle and Black. Those guys big-time recruits but they're closer to being high-4 stars than they are the program-changing one-and-done that Alexander is.