Player Preview: Kipper Nichols
Kipper Nichols is a 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore out of Cleveland, Ohio. After originally signing with Tulane, he joined the Illini back in late December 2015. Due to NCAA transfer rules Kipper had to sit out the spring semester of 2016 and the fall semester of 2016 before making his debut with the program on December 17 against BYU.
What He Did Last Year:
Nichols appeared in 21 games for Illinois, including a start against Penn State. In just 13.6 minutes per game, he logged an impressive 4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds. When he joined Illinois back in 2015, most saw him as more of a work horse. He came on to the team and gave guys like, Malcolm Hill, fits on defense. But he gave us all more than we hoped for after coming into Champaign and shooting 45.3 percent from the field — and an even more impressive 12-for-27 (44.4 percent) from three. Kipper pulled down a career-high eight rebounds and poured in 13 points in a win over Michigan last year. He also scored a career-high 16 points and added six rebounds in a contest against Minnesota.
How Does He Fit into Underwood’s System:
It is no secret that Brad Underwood’s teams like to run. A LOT. This should fit into Kipper’s style very well. He is small in stature for the forward position, but he makes up for his lack of size in hustle and rebounding ability. He is not the type of guy to create his own shots, but he does, however, like to crash the offensive boards, which he did well last year specifically against Michigan. Underwood will utilize his speed and strength frequently this season. Kipper, along with Te’Jon Lucas, provided a much-needed spark to an otherwise generally dull Illini team last year. If he brings that same kind of effort and energy into this year’s squad, there should not be any reason that he does not average at least ten and seven.
What to Expect This Year:
If the Illini are going to have any success this year they are going to need everyone to do their part, all the way from Michael Finke, to Da’Monte Williams, to Kipper Nichols. That being said Nichols will see increased minutes this year, including a lot of time spent at the four position. His averages of just 4.9 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game should go up significantly but expect the averages of 45.3 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three to go down. Kipper has the potential to be the fifth starter this season. If not, he will be one of the first two guys off the bench. Kipper Nichols will play an instrumental role on a very young, rebuilding Illinois team.