Groce responds to Bardo's comments on racism

By Aaron Bennett |

Published 05/01 2014 02:24PM

Updated 05/01 2014 06:47PM

CHICAGO - Illinois basketball coach John Groce responded publicly Thursday for the first time regarding former Illini Stephen Bardo's comments about racism being "overt" in Champaign.  Bardo made the comments last week after sophomore Darius Paul was arrested and charged with illegal consumption of alcohol and resisting a peace officer.

Groce made an appearance on the Kap & Haugh Show on 87.7 The Game in Chicago as part of the Illinois Caravan stop.  He first addressed Paul's arrest and did not suggest - as Bardo had - that Paul had been targeted.

"These guys are 18-22 year olds.  We take a lot of pride in trying to impact their lives," Groce said.  "I tell our guys all the time the greatest gift God gave us is the gift to choose - and choose wisely.  Obviously Darius put himself in a situation which was not a great choice.  At the same time, I have full confidence in our law enforcement in Champaign in terms of making sure our students and student-athletes are safe."

Bardo released his controversial comments last week on twitter, suggesting Paul had been targeted by police.  Paul's brother Brandon - also a former Illini basketball player - suggested the same thing.  Groce responded to Bardo's comments Thursday morning.

"I really believe [Stephen] loves the place.  Stephen's own son goes to the University of Illinois," said Groce.  "If he didn't feel strongly about the University of Illinois in terms of an environment where his own son - his own blood - could grow and develop as a person and a student, then he probably wouldn't send him there."

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