Seniors Say Goodbye to Illinois Fighting Illini Program After a Wild Ride

By Joseph Nardone
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson didn’t come to play Illinois Fighting Illini basketball for John Groce. Now seniors, the two players committed to the program when Bruce Weber was the head man in charge. Four years later, Groce and the two seniors’ postseason hopes are a direct result of the latter buying into the former.

One of the ways Groce got the players to buy in was to talk about rebuilding a new legacy at Illinois. Here is Paul talking about it:

“Coach talked about us starting a legacy here. We wanted to be the beginning of something new. We knew this wasn’t going to be some type of rebuilding year. I want people to remember us as competitors, as great kids who have class and as winners.”

The Fighting Illini have fought their way off the bubble and will likely be awarded an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. It has to be bittersweet for the seniors–who committed to Weber–to end their career with Illinois under another coach. However, they have seemed to find a way, not only to get along, but prosper which one another.

Saturday was the seniors’ final home game. They won, improved their record, while ending their four year careers with the program. Despite many up and downs during their time with the program, I think it is safe to say their four years were a success. Well, except their careers aren’t over yet.

Illinois still has two regular season games and the Big 10 tournament left. After that they are likely to be dancing in a pair of slippers. No matter what happens the rest of the way–it has been a wild trip for the group of seniors.

A new legacy built–maybe. Regardless if they did or not, it has been fun watching them try.

Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Joe on Twitter @JosephNardone

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