Illini redshirt freshman Kipper Nichols eligible after first semester

Redshirt freshman forward Kipper Nichols will become eligible after the first semester.

CHAMPAIGN -- The Illini announced that the NCAA ruled redshirt freshman forward Kipper Nichols ineligible for the first semester of the season due to transfer rules.

Nichols was introduced on Signing Day last fall and he enrolled for the second semester after transferring from Tulane, where he was enrolled for a few weeks in the summer.

According to a release by the Illinois basketball program, Nichols' first game in an Illini uniform will likely be on Dec. 17 against BYU at the United Center. He will have 3.5 semesters of eligibility.

The 6-foot-6 wing is a native of Cleveland, Ohio where he averaged 18.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during his senior season. Illinois head coach John Groce and the program have been excited about him since he arrived on campus.

"He's really a great student, a great person and really just offers a lot of versatility as a player with his size, his strength and his body. He's got a man's body at 18, 19 years old," Groce said. "He's very versatile both offensively and defensively. He can guard multiple positions defensively. He can play mulitple positiond defensively. Guys like always offer just tremendous value to our team."

With Nichols' physical build, Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Malcolm Hill likened him to Jimmy Butler.

"He's Jimmy Butler 2.0," Hill said. "He's really physical. He has a nice mid-range touch too with a high arc. He has the potential to be a really good player because he's already quick, and he's big, strong and physical. I can't wait to see him improve."

Piper's take

This is the ruling that was expected with Nichols, and it seems to be the right one. A source told us at that Tulane did not have any problem with Nichols becoming eligible this fall. But from the NCAA's perspective, that could have set a bad precedent.

The high volume of transfers is its own issue, and allowing players to leave after a few weeks at a school and not lose anything doesn't help.

From Illinois' perspective, obviously they would love to have him for the early part of the schedule. They will have tough tests with West Virginia, Florida State/Temple, N.C. State and VCU with Nichols out. But if he's the only guy sidelined -- based on last season -- the Illini will certainly take it.

And he will be back for two important games against BYU and Missouri. Then, Big Ten play arrives. Talk about being thrown into the fire for a guy who hasn't played a game since high school.

That is one of the disadvantages with this ruling. Nichols won't get to participate in any of the tune-up games. But you can bet he will be going at it in practice. How about once he hits game action?

Nichols is going to bring athleticism, toughness and a high motor from the get-go. He has the ability to be a lockdown defender based on his physical attributes, and he was a plus rebounder from the perimeter throughout his high school career.

Offensively, Nichols has to work on his jump shot. He has the ability to hit from mid-range, and even the outside, but consistency is something that will take time. Nichols also has the handles to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket.

Overall, his versatility will be an asset to the Illini even during his first half season of eligibility. He will provide depth on the wing, and he may be a guy that Groce wants on the floor in late-game situations due to his defensive ability.

The staff is excited about his future, and while he continues to be a man of mystery for many, there appears to be good reason for optimism with him.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories