CHAMPAIGN - Coach John Groce wouldn't go as far to say injured sixth man Joe Bertrand certainly will play Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament against Minnesota.
But Groce did say Tuesday that Bertrand's shoulder, injured in practice last week, is progressing ahead of schedule.
"He's getting better, day to day right now," Groce said. "I like the progress that he's made. I thought he looked good (Monday). I anticipated him not being quite as far along as he was, which is great."
Bertrand dressed out Sunday in the regular season-ending loss at Ohio State, but didn't take part in warm-ups and wasn't a viable option to play. Groce said the staff decided to play it safe with both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments looming.
Reserves Myke Henry and Devin Langford filled the void against the Buckeyes.
Henry logged 24 minutes, his second highest total this season, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds (six offensive).
Langford, meanwhile, failed to score, but grabbed two offensive boards and according to Groce played sufficient defense while equaling his season high with 13 minutes played.
"I was really pleased with both of them," Groce said after the game.
Usually occupying the role of sixth man spark off the bench, Bertrand has also made five starts this season. He's averaging 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds a game while shooting a a team-best 50.8 percent from the field.
However, Bertrand struggled down the stretch, failing to score more than four points in five of his last seven games played. He also committed 11 turnovers during that stretch.
Bertrand was unavailable for comment Tuesday, as Illinois policy restricts injured players from talking to the media. Groce said while it's not yet apparent if Bertrand will play, the team will prepare as if Bertrand will go against the Golden Gophers and adjust as necessary.
"We'll keep working at it here over the next couple days," Groce said. "Jo Jo's a competitor and wants to play. We're going to plan as if he's going to be ready to go for us. At the same time, I think we're going to have to plan to adjust, but a lot of that's going to be dependent on where he's at at tip-off on Thursday."