May 29, 2013
Champaign, Ill. - University of Illinois head coach John Groce announced Wednesday the additions of Western Michigan's Darius Paul and Oregon State's Ahmad Starks to the Fighting Illini program.
Darius Paul is a 6-8, 220-pound forward who was named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. He started 33 of 35 games for the Broncos last season, scoring in double figures 21 times and recording five double-doubles on the season. Paul's best game came at Toledo on Feb. 27, when he registered career highs in both scoring and rebounding with a 27-point, 12-rebound performance. It marked the highest scoring output by a Bronco freshman in 11 years.
Paul helped Western Michigan to 22 victories - its highest win total since 2004 - and a tie for first place in the MAC's West Division (10-6). The Broncos also advanced to the semifinals of both the MAC Tournament and College Basketball Invitational.
Paul hails from Gurnee, Ill. and attended Warren High School, leading the Blue Devils to a 2011 IHSA Class 4A state runner-up finish as a junior. He is the younger brother of Brandon Paul, who recently concluded a standout four-year career with the Fighting Illini.
"Darius is an outstanding person from an exceptional family," Groce said. "He is a talented player who can score in a variety of ways and is a physical presence at both ends of the floor. His versatility and skill will be a welcome addition as we continue to move this program forward."
Ahmad Starks is a 5-9, 170-pound guard who was a career double-figure scorer at Oregon State and finished as the Beavers' all-time leader in 3-point field goals. He started 27 of 32 games last season, averaging 10.4 points and 2.3 assists while shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the arc (64-162) to rank sixth in the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage. Starks scored a career-high 33 points against New Mexico State on Nov. 11 and tied an OSU school record with a career-high seven 3-pointers en route to a 25-point effort at Kansas on Nov. 30.
Starks averaged a career-high 12.1 points with 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals during his sophomore campaign. He started 35 games, scoring in double figures 24 times, led by a season-high 24 points versus California (Jan. 5, 2012). Starks shot 37.1 percent from the land of three with his 79 three-pointers that season ranking second on the all-time OSU single-season list. He played in 30 games as a freshman, averaging 7.8 points.
Starks totaled 991 points during his three seasons at Oregon State (10.2 ppg) and buried 185 three-pointers, the most in school history.
A Chicago native, Starks played at Whitney Young High School. He helped lead the Dolphins to the 2009 IHSA Class 4A state championship as a junior and 2010 runner-up finish as a senior.
"Ahmad is another terrific, high-character young man, and we are pleased to welcome him to the Fighting Illini," Groce said. "He was an accomplished player at Oregon State but has elected to return closer to home for family reasons. Ahmad is an explosive scorer who is capable of making plays for others as well. His versatility will help bolster our backcourt."
In addition to the roster additions, Groce also announced that sophomore Myke Henry has decided to transfer. Henry has been granted a release to contact other schools regarding potential transfer opportunities. "Myke is looking for a new opportunity where he will be able to play a different position," Groce said. "He was a valued member of our team, but we want what is best for him, so we will help Myke find the right fit that will help him further his goals both on and off the court."