Groce takes wait-and-see approach with Paul
CHAMPAIGN — For the first time during his tenure at Illinois, men’s basketball coach John Groce is dealing with an off-the-court issue involving one of his players.
Early Tuesday, sophomore forward Darius Paul, 20, was arrested by University of Illinois police after they said he ran from
them and admitted to drinking alcohol.
Groce, who took over the Illinois program in March 2012, was on the road recruiting Tuesday and released a statement regarding the incident.
“We are aware of the situation that occurred with Darius and are in the process of gathering more information,” Groce said. “We need to let the legal process run its course, and then will determine appropriate disciplinary action.”
Paul sat out the 2013-14 season with the Illini after transferring from Western Michigan, where he was the Mid-American Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2012-13.
The 6-foot-8 power forward, who averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds during his lone season at Western Michigan, is set to become eligible next season and figures to be in contention for major playing time and possibly a spot in the starting lineup.
Earlier this month, Groce lauded Paul for the work he put in on the court and in the weight room during his sit-out season.
“He gained 29 pounds since he’s come here, and a lot of it’s muscle,” Groce said of Paul, who was listed at 220 pounds last season. “I think he can play either position (power forward or center). He’s multi-positional … By the time the transfer year finishes, those guys know two positions, which is really helpful when they become eligible to play.”
Paul, who listed an address in the 0-100 block of East Healey Street, Champaign, was arrested about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday by UI police after they say he ran from them.
UI police Capt. Roy Acree said shortly after 3 a.m., two UI officers were in the 0-100 block of East Springfield Avenue in their cars talking to each other when they spotted two men walking across the parking lot at the South China restaurant at 25 E. Springfield Ave.
“They appeared to be acting suspiciously,” Acree said.
The officers saw the pair cross the parking lot, then lost sight of them; then one of the men, later identified as Paul, reappeared on the northwest side of the viaduct.
“It appeared he was trying to evade them,” Acree said. “At that time, the officer tried to make contact, and Paul started to walk away. The officer asked him to stop, and he started to run.”
Another officer pursued Paul on foot and eventually tackled him outside his apartment in the 0-100 block of East Healey Street, which is about three blocks from where police first saw him. Neither Paul nor the officer was hurt.
“During the interview, he admitted he had been drinking a large amount of alcohol,” Acree said, “so he was arrested for misdemeanor obstructing a police officer and illegal consumption of alcohol.”
Acree said Paul told police he had been drinking in his own apartment. He was taken to the satellite jail in east Urbana, where he posted cash bond and was released.
Acree said the officers never found the second man they had initially seen with Paul.
Paul was charged Tuesday with resisting a peace officer and unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor, both Class A misdemeanor offenses carrying a maximum penalty of up to 364 days in the county jail and a fine up to $2,500.
He appeared before Judge Jeff Ford, along with his attorney, Steve Beckett of Urbana. Ford told Paul to be back in court May 16. Paul’s father was in court with him. Paul declined to answer any questions about his arrest.
Acree said the situation could have been avoided if Paul “just did what he was supposed to do and talked to the police.”
“If you’re not doing anything wrong, there is no reason to avoid us. If the police do stop you, do what you are asked to do,” Acree said.
News-Gazette staff writer Mary Schenk contributed to this report.