The Illinois basketball depth chart has been dealt a minor blow by the NCAA. The school announced on Wednesday that redshirt-freshman Kipper Nichols will be forced to sit out the 2016 Fall semester to complete his required one year sit-out period. As a result, Nichols will have three-and-a-half years of eligibility beginning on December 17 (Illinois’ game against BYU).
While Nichols signed with Tulane out of high school, he never suited up for the Green Wave prior to his transfer last December. The Illini were hoping for this period of time to be considered a part of his academic year in residence. He obviously wasn't on campus, though, so I think the coaches were expecting this outcome. It was still worth a try.
Thankfully the Fighting Illini still have Malcolm Hill, D.J. Williams, and Aaron Jordan so they should be more than fine on the wing to start the year. If anything, this will hurt the Orange and Blue come Big Ten season because Nichols won’t have those valuable non-conference reps under his belt.
John Groce had some high praise for Nichols’ work ethic, too, so it’s rather disappointing that we’ll to wait a few more months to see him in action.
"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."
But Nichols has the potential to fill several needs once he does officially join the roster. Defense and athleticism have been two of Illinois’ biggest weaknesses in recent years, and the 6-foot-6 forward figures to improve both areas.