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More changes for the Illini: Meyers Leonard jumps to the NBA

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - First Round

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 08: Meyers Leonard #12 of the Illinois Fighting Illini shoots the ball during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 8, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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It’s been a busy off-season for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Bruce Weber was fired. John Groce was hired. All of this sparked a huge debate about where Illinois fit in among the nation’s top programs.

Well, that news is now old news. There’s a new thing to talk about. 7-0 center Meyers Leonard is headed to the NBA.

The sophomore averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks this season, and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He was the bright spot for Illinois in an otherwise forgettable season.

Leonard is the first Big Ten player to declare early for the draft. He should fare better than the last Illinois player to enter the draft. Last season freshman Jereme Richmond left but went undrafted. Leonard is projected as a mid-1st round pick by most mock drafts.

Now Illinois fans will wait to hear from Brandon Paul, who also submitted his name to the NBA undergraduate advisory committee for feedback about his draft stock.