Illinois coach John Groce loves to quote Pat Riley.
“Coaches will take consistency over greatness any day of the week,” Groce said at Thursday’s Big Ten media day in Rosemont.
The statement applies aptly to senior guard Brandon Paul.
Paul led Illinois with 14.7 points per game last season, 13th in the Big Ten. He scored 43 points in a victory against Ohio State, with a school-record eight 3-pointers. But equally mind-boggling were a 1-for-7 game at Nebraska and a 2-for-11 blooper in the Big Ten tourney loss to Iowa.
“I think the biggest thing is the mental side,” Groce said. “People ask me what we expect out of him. He’s a guy right now that I’m talking a lot to about making guys around him better.”
“I think shot selection is something I have to get better on,” Paul said. “Sometimes I might take a quick 3 or settle for a jumper when I could get to the basket.”
In no way is Groce trying to temper Paul’s scoring flair. He had a similar coaching challenge at Ohio, where he coached Chicago native D.J. Cooper last season.
Much of Ohio’s Sweet 16 success was due to the freedom Groce allowed Cooper.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Groce said. “Brandon is a terrific scorer. The last thing I want to do is put shackles on him. He’s got to take shots. I want him to be aggressive. I want him to attack.”
Paul said he fits into Groce’s system.
“I think the one thing helping me is better shot selection,” he said. “I know I kind of have the green light in the system, but at the same time I want to take shots in the offense as well as get my teammates the ball.”