There are several games that will forever live in my memory as an Illini fan.
Although I find myself just in my 20s, my father was a 1967 Illinois graduate, and from a young age I was raised to cheer on the Fighting Illini.
In 2005, I sat with my father and watched the heartbreak that was the national title game against North Carolina.
In 2007, I watched in awe as Danny Dufrene, Brian Gamble and Juice Williams took down the Buckeyes at the horseshoe.
And in 2012, I saw one of the most dominant performances in Assembly Hall: Brandon Paul’s 43 points to lead the Illini over Aaron Craft and the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Unfortunately, I was still a high schooler on Feb. 10, 2012, so this was another game I was watching from afar. But that did not make it any less special. Don’t remember? Take a look at the highlights.
Brandon Paul is particularly noteworthy in the past year because he landed a spot on the San Antonio Spurs’ roster after years of professional basketball overseas and trying to make the move back stateside and the NBA. Although he scored in double-digits just five times this season — he had a season-high 18 points on Oct. 30 against the Celtics — Paul has shown the ability to do a little bit of everything: he is a lengthy guard, can shoot the ball from long range, and plays good defense.
How long he will be in the NBA is still uncertain, but if there is anyone who will work hard enough to make his mark, you can bet that will be Brandon Paul.
If you were watching the game against Ohio State on Feb 10, 2012, you saw flashes of all of these aspects of Paul’s game that brought him to the NBA.
Admittedly, his college career was a bit streaky. He often got caught making bad decisions in an offense with little identity. Still, the athleticism, ability to finish around the rim, and playmaking ability was all there.
In that fateful game, Paul was not only 11-of-15 from the field and 13-of-15 from the charity stripe, but he hit eight of his 10 three-point attempts.
By the way, did you see those blocks he had? That one on Sullinger in the final few minutes of the game was Jordan-esque.
Absolutely ridiculous, I tell you.
When I re-watched the highlight video, I got chills when he hit that wide open three at the top of the key.
The crowd roared, and Brian Barnhart stated simply, “They can’t stop Brandon Paul!”
Maybe Trent will one day have a game like that.