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Illinois basketball adding transfers Ahmad Starks, Darius Paul

John Groce

John Groce

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Updated: July 2, 2013 7:13AM



Oregon State guard Ahmad Starks, a high-school star at Young, and Western Michigan forward Darius Paul, the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year last season, are transferring to Illinois, coach John Groce said Wednesday.

Starks, whose grandmother is having health problems in Chicago, could play immediately under an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer closer to home to be near an ailing family member. Based on recent decisions, Starks stands a good chance of being allowed to play this fall.

The 5-9 Starks started 73 games in three seasons with the Beavers. He averaged 10.2 points and made a school-record 185 three-pointers.

‘‘Ahmad is a terrific, high-character young man,’’ Groce said. ‘‘He was an accomplished player at ­Oregon State but has elected to return closer to home for family reasons. His versatility will help bolster our backcourt.’’

The 6-8 Paul, who averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Broncos, will have to sit out a season. A high-school standout at north suburban Warren, he is the younger brother of Brandon Paul, who just completed a productive career with the Illini.

‘‘Darius is an outstanding person from an exceptional family,’’ Groce said. ‘‘His versatility and skill will be a welcome addition as we continue to move this program forward.’’

Groce also confirmed that swingman Myke Henry will transfer to another school.

Meanwhile, the Illinois board of trustees approved a contract extension for Groce through April 2018 that will raise his salary to $1.6  million, up from $1.4 million.

If he’s able to play this fall, Starks will join two other transfers on the Illini roster. Rayvonte Rice, a 6-4 guard from Drake, is expected to be a key contributor after sitting out last season. And Jon Ekey, a 6-7 fifth-year forward from Illinois State, will be eligible to play immediately because he’ll be a graduate student.

Guard Aaron Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, will sit out this season. But Groce also will have five highly regarded incoming freshmen for the 2013-14 season.



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