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John Groce praises Kipper Nichols' work ethic during Summer media session

Good morning. Welcome to the Orange Minute for Friday, June 17.

Fighting Illini basketball began their Summer workouts on Thursday, and John Groce sat down for a brief media session after the initial practice. He touched on quite a bit (including Kendrick Nunn and the open scholarship), but the most important points dealt with injury updates. For once we have some good news!

Groce told reporters that Leron Black is back to 100% health and is "full go" during workouts. Tracy Abrams has also looked explosive on the floor despite returning from multiple season-ending injuries -- that's a particularly good sign for the Illini. Finally, the coaching staff is taking things slow with Mike Thorne; his knee is improving, but it sounds as if he needs to get back into playing-shape.

You can watch the entire 23-minute session up above, but here are some other minor takeaways:

  • Freshman point guard Te'Jon Lucas participated in his first-ever workout with the team. His availability is limited as he continues to recover from a broken foot.
  • Minutes are obviously up for grabs at shooting guard. Jalen Coleman-Lands is the No. 1 option, but Groce also mentioned Aaron Jordan, D.J. Williams, Malcolm Hill, and Tracy Abrams as possibilities.
  • Kipper Nichols' eligibility is still unknown. The staff is hopefully that he'll be able to play immediately, but the worst-case scenario is that he'll only be available for the second semester.
  • You may have seen this picture of Dee Brown in the hospital floating around on Twitter. Groce said he had a hip replacement, and he'll be back on campus in about a week.

Speaking of Nichols, Groce really had some great things to say about him.

"Clearly, at this point, he has exceeded my expectations and our staff's expectations....He has the respect of his teammates because of how hard he works. He is one of those guys that goes above and beyond. He's in here constantly -- he reminds me of [Malcolm] Hill in that way."

It's a bit unfair to expect anything major out of the 6-foot-6 forward in his first season, but I'm started to get excited about his potential. What are Illinois' weaknesses? The big ones are probably defense, athleticism, and just overall intangibles. What is Nichols bringing to the table? You guessed it -- defense, athleticism, and intangibles. We have no idea when he'll be eligible to play, but Groce may have a hard time keeping Nichols off the court once he's available.

Illinois Fighting Illini News

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Isaiah Martinez, Jocelynn Birks named 2016 Illinois Athletes of the Year (TCR)

There were several deserving candidates for this year's awards, but the two most deserving student-athletes were ultimately selected. Congratulations to Isaiah & Jocelynn!

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Illinois Soccer releases 2016 schedule (Fighting Illini Athletics)

Fighting Illini Soccer and head coach Janet Rayfield announced the slate for the 2016 season, which will be the 20th season of the Illinois soccer program. The Illini will matchup against several top-25 opponents in addition to facing a challenging non-conference road schedule.