CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illinois men’s basketball roster has been completely revamped this offseason. One of the few players coming back is Kipper Nichols, who will look to find some consistency and lead the Illini next season.
As it stands now, the Illinois basketball roster next season will consist of eight returning players and at least six newcomers. With two scholarships still open, that number could jump to as high as eight. Do the math, and it equals a huge role for Kipper Nichols.
“Taking the offseason and not just focusing on basketball but mentally, growing mentally and I think that will be a big part for me,” he explained.
The 6’6 forward has shown so many flashes of what he could be in his season and a half in uniform with the Illini. But next year the Illini need consistency. He capped last season off by scoring 31 points in the loss to Iowa. But in the three games prior, he scored a total of 15 points.
“We’ve got to put him in a position where he’s not needed, so to speak and I mean that in the case where if he doesn’t do what he’s capable of everyday then we have other guys in place,” head coach Brad Underwood said. “Maybe not quite the case this year but I expect him to grow. He works at the game, we have to have him play and be very consistent..”
And Nichols knows it too. That’s why when Underwood gets on to him in the huddle or at practice, Nichols responds.
“I need it, I need it. He does it with good intent,” Nichols said. “He pushes all our guys to their wit end because he see something in us that we might not see in ourselves sometimes. I listen. I take head to what he’s saying because his coaching is with good intention and he’s a great basketball mind but even better guy.”
Is he the guy to get the Illini back to the top of the Big Ten and in the NCAA tournament, the jury is still out. But Underwood will need Nichols next season if they want to get there.