CHAMPAIGN (MCT) -- When Illinois opens Big Ten play against Northwestern on Wednesday night, it will do so without highly-touted transfer Alex Legion.

"I talked to him about it last week before he left, and he just kind of felt he needed to do it," coach Bruce Weber said. "I talked to him about different situations, where he could go, what he could do -- stay here, go, whatever. He's a good kid. He had a difficult situation, and you feel bad for him. I just hope the next situation ends up working out for him."

Legion arrived at Illinois after leaving Kentucky nearly two years ago. He sat out the spring and fall semesters during 2008 before becoming eligible to play last December. He played in 22 games and averaged 3.5 points and 11.1 minutes per game.

Legion entered this season hoping to start. He did for just one game and saw his playing time dramatically dip. Freshmen Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson earned starting spots ahead of Legion, and he suffered from what Weber called a lack of confidence earlier this season.

As a result, when Weber has turned to his bench, Legion has often stayed there. He has averaged just 9.9 minutes and 2.7 points per game this season.

"I didn't think he was unhappy," forward Mike Davis said. "I mean, he was happy. On the court, in practice, he was in the gym, working still.

"At home, you didn't see any signs of sadness or anything like that. I was surprised when I heard the news. I wish him well."

With senior Dominique Keller coming off the bench and a highly touted recruiting class coming in, Legion could have remained lost in the mix next season as well.

"We're going to miss him," center Mike Tisdale said. "He worked his butt off in the summer, and he just kind of got in a slump and it didn't work out for him, and I wish him well."

His decision to transfer a second time leaves him with a few options regarding his future.

According to an Illinois spokesman, if Legion sits out one semester, he can play one full year at an NAIA school. If he sits out a calendar year, he can play one semester at a Division I or Division II school. If he sits out three semesters, he can have a full year of eligibility at a D-I or D-II school.

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(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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