When we last saw Illini basketball, there was a noticeable difference in body composition and athleticism between them and their opponents. Iowa dunked their way to a victory in the Big Ten Tournament, leaving a young Illini squad with a lot of work on its plate.
Since that time, the Iowa that looked like a vastly superior athletic machine, faced their own group of Monstars in Tennessee, a team that faces few rivals in the weightroom. So, that’s how far away Illinois really is from getting old, getting strong, and staying strong.
Part of that is on the coaching staff to recruit the class balance and consistency that sticks around and puts together a string of offseasons. But immediately that responsibility falls at the feet of Adam Fletcher, who has been dubbed by back-to-back head coaches as the “Greatest Strength Coach in the Nation”. While the late summer twitter pictures always show consistent progress, we’re still waiting for it to translate to the court, and still waiting for that progress to stack up against the better kids in the country.
To that effect, I’ve taken a player from the current Sweet 16 that each returning kid should model their body composition after. Disclaimer: I fully understand that it’s a process for each kid, and you don’t go from Trent Frazier to Russell Westbrook overnight.
Ayo Dosunmu - Meet De’Andre Hunter. Hunter is the do-it-all soon to be 1st round draft pick from Virginia...one that is bigger than Ayo will or ever should be, but Ayo still has a lot there to emulate. They both move very similar in that their main athletic asset is elite body control, and they slither where they want to go. What helps Hunter take it to the next level is his frame, including incredibly strong hands and wrists. Ayo is going to fill out more than originally expected, and would be well served keeping the lean but muscular frame Hunter maintains.
Trent Frazier - meet Corey Davis Jr. Frazier spent the entire off-season working on gaining strength and finishing at the rim. While he did put on some additional muscle, it wasn’t enough to get him where he needed to be for those goals. Corey Davis Jr. is built for contact, both offensively and defensively, and if Frazier can get closer to this build, he’ll stay stronger throughout the year and feel more comfortable working his way into the lane.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili - meet Grant Williams. Giorgi is already a bull, so why not get aggressive with lofty goals. Giorgi has posted social media from the gym basically every day since the season ended, so let’s give him a monster target.
Tevian Jones - meet Cam Reddish. You might even already know him, being that you play the same position and were in the same class. Reddish is young, but has a well defined frame that allows him to use his height and strength over smaller defenders, but not lose that shooting stroke with too much bulk. Reddish is also thicker through his core, which helps him maintain his balance as an underrated defender.
Alan Griffin - meet Kenny Williams. I’m pretty sure that Griffin is going to develop into the best on-the-ball defender next season, so emulate the weight room decisions of Kenny Williams. Griffin is a very thin and long 6-5, so out of anyone on the roster, he most needs that dedicated spring, summer and early fall tacking on muscle.
Andres Feliz - You’re basically there, but meet Carsen Edwards. As the pound-for-pound strongest bulldog on the team, you don’t need much work, but you do need a little more bounce in those legs for finishing through contact at the rim. As the person most willing to draw fouls, get some and-1’s.
Samba Kane - meet Mfiondu Kabengele. Samba missed last summer, and really could have used it. In the minutes that Kane did earn this year, he showed glimpses of what he could become, and part of that is getting stronger and more sudden to grab rebounds. Kabengele has Kane’s skill +, but also a few years on him pumping iron. From early returns last fall, I don’t think Kane is going to be Tisdaleish in his weight room returns.
Da’monte Williams - meet Bryce Brown. This one was pretty simple. Find a player on Auburn, and attach it to Williams, who needs to continue getting healthy (I don’t think we’ve seen pre-injury Da’Monte yet), and getting more explosive. It’s tough to keep a 3 out there that doesn’t jump passing lanes and can’t finish the alley-oop chances.
Kipper Nichols - meet Admiral Schofield. Kipper has this amazing body for modeling, but it doesn’t translate to what Illinois needs on the basketball court. It’s not quick enough to really exploit 4’s, and it’s not big enough to guard them. We also know that Kipper lost weight to better play the wing, but that didn’t work. It’s time to bulk up and be an energy beast for your senior year. Besides for Zion, meet the beastiest left in the Tournament.
For vintage inspired, high quality, and well-designed University of Illinois apparel, check out Fourth and Kirby, and look for the TCR Collection while you’re at it!