Mike Tisdale Important Cog In Illini Attack

Mike Tisdale (Jack Lyman)

It takes time for a tall player to develop his body and his basketball game. For the impatient fan and coach, the wait can seem excruciating. But patience is often a virtue. A good example is Mike Tisdale. The Illini center is continuing to develop his strength and add weight, and the more he does the better he plays.

Mike Tisdale is now a junior. The 7'-1" Illinois center hasn't gained much weight since last year, but he is stronger.

"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling real confident with the team, and I'm more confident with myself. I think the excitement's good, the expectations are high."

The team's success is more important to Tisdale than individual accolades.

"Yeah, I think if we come together we've got the right parts and right coach. I think we can go deep in the tournament."

Part of his enthusiasm is being generated by the talented freshman class.

"We've got a little bit of a spark back. These guys have stepped up to fill in some spots we might be missing. They're a good time and a lot of fun, and they really create some competition.

"They definitely speed it up. It's a good thing, but sometimes they need to slow down. They're learning their roles right now, so they're starting to fit in and starting to take care of the ball."

Right now, the freshmen are taking shots he often received last year. Over time, Tisdale believes the ball will come back to him.

"Either way. Obviously, they can make shots. If they can't make them, then maybe we'll go inside. If I can't make them, we'll go outside. Hopefully, it's a combination of both. It gives us more options."

Tisdale's slender legs must bang with much stronger players for rebounds and shots in the paint. He has worked hard to improve his lower body strength.

"It's coming along good. Coach keeps asking me to bend my legs, and I've been working on that. Jimmy (Price) the trainer and I have been doing a lot of core strength and leg strength. I just feel stronger."

Battling bulkier foes is physically exhausting. It makes holding one's position more difficult.

"Yeah, it is. Long legs sometimes are a curse. It's hard to keep balance and sit low, things like that. A big guy that can do that is usually gonna win the battle. Coach has really been getting on me about doing it."

Tisdale has always had a feathery touch from midrange. But Illinois coach Bruce Weber wants him to get more inside touches as well. He is continuing to add to his offensive arsenal.

"I feel a little more confident with my left handed hook now. The turnaround jumper has become more of a go-to move. Kind of a jump hook. It all adds up."

The Riverton graduate looks forward to the season, but he realizes there are a number of challenges on the schedule.

"Yeah, it's gonna be tough. We've got some good teams, some tough venues. It's a good challenge.

"The Big 10 schedule is always gonna be tough, especially this year. In my junior class, everybody stayed in the conference. It makes it even tougher. Last year, I think we got 6 bids (to NCAA), so the increased prestige always helps. We have a lot of good teams returning."

Tisdale often struggles with confidence. He gets down on himself easily, making it tough for him to play his best. Weber believes Tisdale's tryout with the national team this summer helped his confidence.

"Going out to Colorado Springs I think was a nice confidence-builder," Weber relates. He definitely did a great job there. I think he proved to himself he can compete. Six of the top big guys in the country were there, and he held his own.

"He wasn't quite good enough. Some of that comes down to the physicality. The first day he was good. The second day he was pretty good. And then the second day at night it took a toll, and the third day it took a little bit of toll. It goes back to having the strength and toughness to finish.

"He is running way better than he did in the past. I think last year he was just trying to survive and make times. Now he not only makes them, he finishes easily and talks trash when he does it. 'You can't get to me coach, we're gonna go by it and laugh at you.' Last year he was gonna die half the time. So it's good."

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