Vederian Lowe has had a great summer and committed to Illinois in June. How has he developed into a Big Ten player?
Dan Appino, Rockford Auburn head coach: "I think he's done a good job of proving himself again and also getting himself into really good lean shape. It's not easy to lose weight and get stronger at the same time. That's one of the things he's been working on.
"He's starting to develop the comfortableness of dominating people, you know what I mean? He came in and he's a big, quiet, likable kid. I think he's one of those kids who was told probably early on, 'Don't hurt other people (laughs) or other kids.' He hasn't gotten comfortable until the last two years really pancaking people and putting people on the ground. I think as he gets better and better at that, he gets more confident at doing that and feels OK in doing that. I think that's the best step he's taken."
What do you think his strengths as a player are?
Appino: "He's got athletic feet. He's got good hands. He's powerful and he can strike a blow that knocks people off course with his hands. I think those are all big pluses. We play basketball pretty regularly with him, and I got some pretty good sized offensive and defensive line coaches, and they can't stop him when he wants to back down in the lane and do things."
Besides leaning down and muscling up, what else is his next step and what does he need to work on?
Appino: "Well, I think he's got to become more relentless. I think he's got to be one of those guys who, if you lose contact with a guy, you re-establish and just be really persistent that way. I think he has to get more comfortable with his leverage and dropping that down a little bit. I think those are some of the things that are a constant work in progress for him. He's one of those real quiet kids who really has been a gentle giant his whole life, and now he's starting to develop a chip on his shoulder too, which I like. I think people think he's soft, and he's starting to take offense at that. That's helping him to be more tenacious on the field."
What's he like off the field?
Appino: "Just like he is on the field. He's a quiet kid with a quick smile. He loves to talk anything sports and stuff like that, but he's got depth to him too. I think he's a lot like his grandfather, a very pleasant gentleman but also someone who believes in some pretty strong convictions to faith and how you treat people and stuff like that. He's a good person."
What do you think as a high school coach in this state Lovie Smith's impact on Illinois and what do you think he can accomplish here?
Appino: "I'm excited. I like how he's really preaching about how they really need to play hard, and not what kids think is hard but what Lovie thinks is hard. That crosses ethnicities. It crosses different programs in the state. It's something that everybody can coach up. Everybody can apply effort to get better at, so it's not talent-based. I love that about him. I think sometimes when you recruit Big Ten athletes, you just assume that comes with it. Obviously, it's not translating like it does at some other Big Ten schools. I'm really happy he's pushing that emphasis and that value in his program."