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Underwood: “I love that we have expectations”

Brad Underwood addresses the media for the first time since practice started.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Media Day Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

CHAMPAIGN, Ill — Brad Underwood is ready to put a disappointing season behind him. After going 12-21 (7-13 Big Ten) last year, Underwood enters his third season as Illinois’ head coach without a tournament appearance or a winning season.

“I am excited about one thing in particular: I love that we have expectations,” Underwood said. “Illinois basketball is deserving of that and our players are deserving of that.”

“Today was practice number nine or so in terms of where we have been in. We’re a little bit further behind in the total number, but because of the trip to Italy and the ten days of practice — eight of which were two-a-days — we feel like we’re in a really good place in terms of being ahead.”

“I have not felt bad about one practice yet. This group has been dialed-in in terms of culture. I’m ecstatic about our work ethic.”

“Kofi [Cockburn] and Jermaine [Hamlin], those guys have been forced fed, especially in Jermaine’s case because he wan’t with us in the summer.”

On Andres Feliz:

“He is the unsung little guy that potentially can be as valuable a player as any guy on the team.”

“He is a vastly improved jump-shooter, but his IQ and character is so reflective of everything we do on the court now. I don’t take that for granted.”

On Kofi Cockburn:

“He can really run.”

“He’s impressive but he’s also a freshman. There is going to be a learning curve.”

“We have been one of the top teams in the Big Ten that have been scoring the most in the paint. We primarily got those on cutters, now we can force feed the ball down low.”

On Kipper Nichols:

“He has been one of the big surprises in the first eight practices so far.”

“We have seen a very consistent kipper, a guy that has made huge strides defensively.”

“So many people want to stereotype Kipper as an offensive player. You know kipper was a very effective rebounder his sophomore year. He was a guy that drew a lot of tough assignments and we’re starting to see that.”

On Giorgi:

“He might be the best conditioned athlete that I have ever been around.”

“We’re gonna see a more versatile Giorgi. We will see a guy that will handle the ball some a guy that will put his passing on full display.”

“He’s worked extremely on his perimeter jump shot.”

“We’ll see a more versatile and well-rounded basketball player.”

On Alan Griffin:

“He is extremely instinctual. Alan has a scorer’s mentality. Scorers find a way to chase the ball and find a way to put the ball in the basket.”

“He is an absolute nightmare in practice to go against. They don’t like covering Alan because they know Alan is gonna go (to the boards) every single time.”

On transfers Austin Hutcherson and Jacob Grandison:

“Those two guys are good.”

“We see these guys who are challenging the starters who have seen 60 college games.”

On recruiting:

“We’re in a culture in recruiting that players mimic the NBA. Good players want to play with other good players.”

“We had a visit earlier this fall and you saw Giorgi and Kofi in the stands chanting that young man’s name, that’s paying it forward”

“Our best recruiters, believe it or not, are not our coaches. It’s our student athletes, good players want to play with good players.”