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Kipper Nichols expected to play multiple positions

Underwood said Nichols will have a “big” role for his team this year. Will he answer the call?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

There might not be a member of the Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team that has gotten less media attention than sophomore forward Kipper Nichols.

But do not let that fool you, the 6-foot-6 three-man from Cleveland is going to have a “big” role on his team, said Illinois head coach Brad Underwood.

“Kipper’s been good,” Underwood said. “We have to have him playing at a very high level. I’ve challenged Kipper a lot here in this first month of practice.”

It looks like Nichols is answering his first-year head coach’s call. Nichols gave Illini fans a glimpse of what is potentially to come this season in last Friday’s exhibition against the Eastern Illinois Panthers. He led the team in scoring with 16 points off the bench.

Nichols shot 5-of-10 from the field and hit two of his three attempts from beyond-the-arc. He also hauled in nine rebounds and led Illinois in assists with four.

“He’s a guy that can step out and shoot it, he’s a guy that can be a dominate rebounder,” Underwood said. “He’s physically strong and gifted.”

Underwood said Nichols also has the potential to be an elite defender, especially against low-post players.

“I got to continue to help Kipper on the defensive end because he can be an elite defender and guard multiple positions,” Underwood said. “In lineups (when) we play small, he can match fours and if you wanted him to switch, he can match fives.”

It is safe to assume that Nichols is going to be seeing a lot of minutes this season at the power forward position, whether he starts at it or comes off the bench.

No matter what position he plays, Nichols is going to be an important piece of this Illini squad.

“We need Kipper to be a big part of what we do,” Underwood said.