Do you remember John Groce's Summer media session from a few weeks back? Groce touched on pretty much every topic imaginable during his 20-plus minutes of availability, but his praise for incoming wing Kipper Nichols was one of my biggest takeaways. The freshman's early work ethic evidently won over his coaches and teammates very quickly.
Well, we got more positive updates over the weekend. The News-Gazette's Scott Richey recently published a great piece on Illinois' new wing, and it's absolutely worth a read. There's a lot of insightful stuff in that article, but I was particularly surprised to read that Nichols has been regularly defending Malcolm Hill during practice.
Sunday special on @kipset7: 'I’m a guy that likes to be around good people.' By @srrichey. https://t.co/x4hlfm9Qpc pic.twitter.com/YRVpwrwYPY— IlliniHQ (@IlliniHQ) July 17, 2016
Hill is one of the best players in the conference, so seeing these matchups described as "battles" is encouraging news. But, then again, perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised given Nichols' mindset.
"I try to play with a chip on my shoulder every time I step on the floor," he said. "I'm a big competitor, whether it's in the weight room or on the court, video games, you have it. I don't like losing."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- it'll be hard for John Groce to keep Nichols off the court if he's indeed able to defend at a high level during Big Ten play. Illinois' perimeter defense was especially dreadful last year, and they'll need to make huge improvements in that area to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament.
June 18, 2016 Poll Question
Excluding Jalen Coleman-Lands and Michael Finke, which Illini underclassman do you envision making the biggest impact next season? Make sure to cast your vote, and let us know what you think down in the comments.
Illinois Fighting Illini Links
- Four-star ATH Russ Yeast down to 6 schools, including Illinois (TCR)
Iowa, Northwestern, Louisville, Ole Miss, and Auburn are also involved. According to Scout's Allen Trieu, Yeast intends to visit all six of his finalists within the next two weeks. Obviously, though, that doesn't 100% guarantee a trip to Champaign, so hopefully Lovie Smith is given an opportunity to make an on-campus pitch before a decision is reached.
- 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini (TCR FanPost)
Dawuane Smoot? Hardy Nickerson? Wes Lunt? Which members of Illinois' 2016 roster have the best shot at making it to the next level? Well you're in luck. One TCR community has you covered with an in-depth look at every Illini who has a chance at being picked next Spring.
- College Football Preseason Magazine Roundup (Fighting Illini Athletics)
The annual haul of preseason college football preview magazines is out. Here's a look at where the Fighting Illini stack up. Includes mentions from Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, and Lindy's Sports.
- 2016 Illinois Football Defensive Superlatives (Illini Inquirer)
Jeremy Werner previews the 2016 Illinois football defense with superlatives, including defensive MVP, breakout player, X-factor, biggest position battle, biggest strength, biggest weakness and freshmen who could make an impact.
- Big Ten TV success is the envy of college world (The News-Gazette)
Illinois' share of Big Ten 2017-18 media rights will sing a tune of roughly $50 million. This appears to be an increase of $15 million or more annually in a six-year agreement that should be confirmed July 26 in Chicago.