Can Brandon Paul Pull An ‘Evan Turner’ This Season?

Saturday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) He’s three inches shorter, five pounds lighter and unlikely to be named National Player of the Year (or go No. 2 in the NBA Draft), but that doesn’t mean Brandon Paul can’t still pull an Evan Turner this season.

And by that I mean, Paul has the talent and potential to lift the Fighting Illini basketball team to lofty Big Ten heights – and perhaps beyond – much in the same way that Turner elevated Ohio State three years ago.

The biggest question might be if John Groce can live with Paul making mistakes along the way, the way Thad Matta lived with Turner’s.

Back in December 2009, I was chatting with a friend in the stands during a game at Assembly Hall in Champaign who had spoken to the Illinois coaching staff just the day before. They told him that NBA scouts were already starting to chirp about Paul, the 2009 Illinois Mr. Basketball, who had set a freshman record a month earlier with 22 points vs. SIU-Edwardsville in his Illini debut.

After that conversation, Paul’s draft stock no doubt cooled considerably after he went on to average only 7.8 points for the season while Illinois failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. But it appears that Paul’s draft status is likely heating up again here in 2012 during the 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard’s senior season.

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