Men's College Basketball

Hawks receive commitment from high-scoring swingman

Riverside-Brookfield's Paul Zilinskas (right) goes up for a rebound during the 3A Hinsdale South Sectional semi-final against Bogan on March 10.
Sandy Bressner -
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 25, 2020 12:01 am Updated: May. 18, 2020 10:13 pm

QUINCY -- Like most college-bound student-athletes dealing with Illinois' shelter-in-place decree, Paul Zilinskas is getting creative with his home workouts, while his mind is on getting up some shots.

"I'm itching to get in the gym when everything opens up," he said.

He understands playing basketball in one of NCAA Division II's top conferences will require all the effort he's willing to put forth.

"I'll be getting in the weight room and getting my body right even more," Zilinskas said.

That's needed in order to make an immediate impact with the Quincy University men's basketball program.

The 6-foot-5 swingman from Riverside-Brookfield recently gave the Hawks a verbal commitment, making him the fourth high school senior to do so. He joins Rock Island center Soloman Gustafson, Marshall County (Ky.) forward Tyler Stokes and St. Louis Ladue Horton Watkins point guard Jaylen Boyd.

"I like how (QU coach Ryan) Hellenthal really believed in me as a player, along with the whole staff," Zilinskas said. "On my visit back in October, I felt very wanted by everyone and I was accepted by everyone. Not just the coaching staff and the players, but everyone around there was really friendly.

"Quincy is really a basketball town. So what's not to like there?"

There's plenty to like about Zilinskas' game as well.

Zilinskas led Riverside-Brookfield to a 22-11 record and a Class 3A regional championship as he averaged 18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He shot 62 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line.

He had four double-doubles with a season-high 31 points against Ridgewood.

"As my body has filled out over the years, I feel I can guard multiple positions," Zilinskas said. "I feel I can distribute and handle the ball. I feel like I'm very versatile and I think I can help Quincy a lot."

Zilinskas understands he needs to grow as a player, and after watching current QU players like Tanner Stuckman make significant strides, he's confident Quincy is the right place for that.

"That's a very inspirational story," Zilinskas said. "It's definitely a big factor in me coming there."

Such an opportunity is all he ever wanted.

"It's a blessing to be in this position," Zilinskas said. "I'm really grateful Coach Hellenthal and the staff took a chance on me."