Why Brandon Paul Is #1 In 2009

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By Roy & Harv Schmidt

We thought we spelled it out long ago, but apparently there are some who just don't get it when it comes to why we regard Warren's Brandon Paul as the top player in Illinois from the class of 2009. Therefore, what follows is our recap as to the things that we believe separate Paul from the other top prospects in the junior class. But better yet, we feel a strong need to set the record straight as to why the reasoning given by those who question Paul's ability is totally off-base.

Let us begin by saying that we have seen every player who is generally regarded as being among the top ten prospects in the state from the 2009 class at least twice this season with the exception of Eureka's 6'8 Jordan Prosser. That is why we believe that we have just as good (if not better) handle on the class than just about anybody. With that being said, once again here are our thoughts on Paul.

The biggest reason why we tab Paul as the #1 junior in Illinois is because he has a considerably higher degree of versatility than any of the other top guards in the class, including Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson, Sterling's Joe Bertrand and Whitney Young's Chris Colvin. Simply put, Paul is the most well-rounded offensively of any of these players. Not only is Paul an outstanding long-range shooter, but he is also highly athletic, is an outstanding passer and has above-average ballhandling skills which allow him to consistently beat opponents to the basket in one-on-one situations.

Secondly, and a factor that we believe is just as important, is the intangibles that Paul brings to the table. He plays as hard from start to finish as any player in the junior class and never takes a play off. The same cannot be said about either Richardson or Bertrand despite their enormous skill level. Paul's outstanding work ethic is especially noticeable at the defensive end, as he uses his incredibly long wingspan to get into the passing lanes and convert baskets off of turnovers. And the best part part is that he believes there are still things that he can improve on and he works every day on trying to become even better. You have to love a kid who thinks that way.

What is laughable is that the talent evaluator who seems to be Paul's greatest detractor has only seen Paul play on one occassion this season. That was at the WDWS/News-Gazette Shootout at the Assembly Hall in Champaign back in December. Paul struggled in that contest, finishing with 21 points on 8-20 shooting, including 3-10 from 3-point range in a 61-50 loss to New Trier. However, did this evaluator bother to take into account the outstanding defensive effort turned in by New Trier, as they took the ball out of Paul's hands, and the fact that Rick Malnati is simply one of the best coaches in the state? Somehow we don't think so.

Ironically enough, we were also in attendance for what may have been Paul's worst outing of the season, as he wound up with only 5 points on just 2-7 shooting in a 48-40 loss to Simeon in the semifinals of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Again, credit must go to Simeon and Robert Smith, who has proven to us that he is the best coach in the Chicago Public League and one of the tops in the state as well. Despite the subpar performances in both the Simeon and New Trier games, we never gave a thought to moving Paul out of the #1 spot. We had seen all that we needed to see when we watched Paul at the Fremd Thanksgiving Tournament earlier in the season, an event in which he was absolutely spectacular. And while we were not in attendance for this one, it is also worth noting that Paul's best performance to date was a 36 point outburst vs. Oak Park and Iman Shumpert, who is generally regarded as the state's #2 prospect in the class of 2008. Moral to the story? You can't base a player ranking or an evaluation on just one game.

What also makes the opinion of the downstate-based talent evaluator who is questioning Paul's game highly absurd is the faulty reasoning behind it when he says that "Paul isn't big enough to be a 2-guard in college." Excuse us? Are you kidding? Nothing could be further from the truth, as Paul has the perfect blend of size, athleticism and length (wingspan) which makes him an ideal shooting guard prospect at the college level. As one of our esteemed colleagues pointed out, both Shannon Brown (Proviso East and Michigan State) and Jerel McNeal (Hillcrest and Marquette) were believed to be undersized shooting guards upon entering college and both ended up or are doing just fine.

The common knock on Paul which makes more sense to us is that he cannot play point guard at the next level, although we aren't buying into that one either. While Paul is more of a natural two, we have seen enough instances which indicate that he has the ballhandling skills and the playmaking skills which would allow him to make the conversion to the point. It is now merely a question of Paul developing the mindset/mentality of a point guard.

The bottom line is that all three guards that University of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber has landed commitments from in the class of 2009 are interchangeable (Paul, Richardson and Bertrand). They can be used in much the same way as the "three-headed monster" attack that propelled Weber and the Illini to the final four in 2005. We aren't saying that they will be as good--we are simply saying that they have similar capabilities. While none of the three may be pure point guards, they are all capable of handling the point and doing an above-adequate job. That is why the argument that Weber still desparately needs to recruit a point guard is hogwash.

In summary, everyone is entitled to an opinion with respect to a player. However, the more one sees that player the stronger the opinion becomes. Paul is the perfect case and point. We hope that everyone who has seen Paul is capable of coming away with their own opinion. But when comparing the opinions of the talent evaluators, we ask that everyone keep in mind the fact that we have seen Paul on numerous occassions as opposed to the detractor who has only seen him once when deciding which opinion carries more weight.

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Well I think Chris Colvin is the best junior in the state. He can shoot,penetrate,and pass once he gets into traffic. His game is kind of stunted at Whitney Young because of all the DI guards on the team. He is the most talented player on their team. The only drawback is his attitude and is turnover prone which could hurt him later on. Also is a good defensive player and rebounder for his size. Most talented offensive player in the junior class and most complete guard.

Flash Flanagan is right.

Brandon Paul is a short 2-guard, and he does not have the athleticism of a Shannon Brown to make up for it. This is guy is way to inconsistent to be ranked #1 in the state.

Joseph Bertrand will not be in the top 100. Kid doesnt play hard all the time, isnt a great athlete, plays poor competition.

DJ is the real deal. He's the #1 player in the 2009 class.

All that said, it'd be foolish for Weber not to recruit a pure PG. The main reason the 2005 Illini had a great guard attack was because Deron Williams was a pure PG, and Dee Brown had a lot of PG skills too.

Paul, Richardson, Bertrand would be like throwing 3 wings into an offene. Wont be pretty.

Roy & Harv Respond:

We never said that Bruce Weber shouldn't recruit a pure point guard and in fact he is looking at possibilities to satisfy that need in both the classes of 2010 and 2011. What we did say was that we don't think that he is at the point of desperation with absolutely having to land a point guard, and we firmly believe that.

Now our question for you: How many times have you seen Brandon Paul play? He has much better athleticism than you give him credit for.

How tall is Paul really? I would say that in shoes he is close to 6'4 and lets not forget that we PLAY in shoes.

Roy & Harv Resond:

We would say that right now Paul is 6'3 with shoes.

Totally agree with your assessment of Paul. The Fighting Illini are going to back on the national map, and Chicago will hop back on the bandwagon as it rides once again!

Great report guys. Keep up the hard work

Anyone who says Brandon Paul isn't athletic enough is an idiot!! Just look up the picture of him posterizing the Pontiac kid. Incredible

I am a bigg time Illini fan. I don't think it really matters who is #1 in state in 2009, I just like the fact that Bruce Weber is able to keep all the great players instate not like the past few years, That is what hurt the Illini. The class of 09 & 10 Weber was able to get comittments from the top 2 rated kids in Illinois which if Weber can keep there comittments will make Illinois a Final 4 contender again.

James Kinney should be in the discussion. guard from champaign centennial can do it all.

Roy & Harv Respond:
James Kinney is a good player, no question about it. We gave him his props after watching him in December at the WDWS/News-Gazette Shootout at the Assembly Hall in Champaign. We are sure we will be writing plenty more about him in the future.

Paul, DJ, Bertrand, Head, Griffey and Jereme Richmond joining Legion and Jamar Smith ... They will be BETTER than the Dee-Deron-Lu group. Yes, BETTER. More talent than has ever been assembled in Illini orange and blue.

your assessment of bertrand is way off. he is a tremendous athlete. what are you watching? also, he plays hard, but the results aren't always there. as for competition, during the high school season the comp. is weak, but he plays at a very high level during aau ball with the illinois wolves. that's where he's made his mark.

Paul isn't athletic enough to be a 2????????? You've got to be kidding me...the same kid who jumped OVER a kid trying to take a charge, isn't athletic enough to be a 2?? Wow, Harv, tell these guys to pass the bong next time, because they've been smoking WAY too much. Paul is the best player in the class. Also, Bertrand is playing the point at Sterling and don't forget that McCamey is only a freshman.

Anyone who says Brandon Paul is too small to be a college shooting guard is a moron. There are 6'1", 6'2" guys who have been good to great college shooting guards, and Paul's at least 6'3". How tall are the two best shooting guards in the college game right now (Gordon and Bayless)? Both 6'3".

Paul, Bertrand and Richardson are interchangable players between 6'3" and 6'5". Dee, Deron and Luther were interchangible, but they were 5'11", 6'3" and 6'3". I guess they were too small.

I guess Drew Neitzel is too small to play off the ball at 6'0" (he never plays the point these days, with Walton and Lucas splitting those duties).

Anyone who says he isn't athletic enough....well, you let me know when another guard in the state practically jumps over a kid for a dunk. If Brandon Paul isn't athletic enough, not many people are.

About Bertrand, I personally feel he has as good of a skill set as anyone. I don't argue that Paul's the best player in the state for '09, but I love Bertrand's game. (D.J. Richardson's as well for that matter...all three of these kids are gonna be fantastic Illini.)

I don't think it's that he doesn't play hard, I think it's that he doesn't know how often he can dominate. That, and he's so much better than everyone around him that he's got a massive bulls-eye on his back. Whatever aggressiveness he tapped into in Champaign at the News-Gazette Shootout, I hope he finds it full-time. I see him playing the point when McCamey leaves after his junior year for the NBA.

Roy & Harv Resond:


Great comments! The only thing we would add with respect to Bertrand is that he may also be hurt by the fact that he doesn't face the competition week in and week out that both Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson do.

I wouldn't argue with that at all.

I think we saw what kind of player he is when he went up against an equal talent in D.J. Richardson back in December. I know you can never base a kid's potential/ability off of what happens in one game, but this may be a case where a snapshot perhaps tells more than the big picture does. In a big-time game on a big-time stage against a future teammate, he played awesome.

His situation at Sterling, with lesser teammates and lesser competition, is so different than most elite prospects. So it's hard to read much into a lot of his high school games. Sometimes a kid absolutely slaughters everyone out there, like Jereme Richmond did last year. Sometimes they try too hard to get their inferior teammates involved- which isn't necessarily a BAD thing- and are such a huge target for opposing teams that they kinda blend into the picture, like Bertrand apparently is too often this year.

Either way, I'm looking forward to what Bertrand does this summer in AAU. I know a lot of people have their criticisms of the AAU circuit and I do as well, but it'll be Joe's chance to show what he can do against high-major talent like he did with his 28 points against Peoria.


Roy & Harv Respond:


It is too early to predict the overall effect that any recruiting class may have on a program until the players arrive on campus and start playing. What we can say is that based on the quality of incoming talent that Illinois has coming in from the classes of 2009 and 2010, in addition to Simpson from 2008, there is certainly reason to believe that Illinois will compete for Big Ten championships and be an exciting team to watch. Whether they can duplicate the feats accomplished by the 2005 team remains to be seen.

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This page contains a single entry by Roy & Harv Schmidt published on February 13, 2008 7:58 AM.

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