Calvin Brock was a spring signee out of Chicago Simeon High School who exploded onto the scene his senior season. But he was young and inexperienced, and it took him a long time to learn the nuances of the college game. His difficulties playing against Illinois standouts Dee Brown and Deron Williams his freshman year led to a much needed redshirt season.
"The players we played against struggled against Dee and Deron also." Brock reminded. "They taught me a lot and helped me out a lot. And now I'm trying to teach it to some of the young guys."
Calvin graduated this past year, so he could have gone on with his life. But he explains he was highly motivated to return for his final year of eligibility.
"Last year, we didn't have a great season. I definitely want to compete for another Big 10 title, and most of all participate in the NCAA Tournament. I had to come back. I couldn't go out with a losing record."
Players in their final year often have more motivation because they know their college days are about over, and they want to enjoy every minute they have left. So getting up for games is no problem for Brock, even against opponents the Illini handled easily in their first encounter.
"I'm fired up every game, so it doesn't really matter. Whether we win or lose the first game, I'm ready to play."
It is that desire to excel every day plus his versatility that make Calvin a good sixth man. Coach Bruce Weber is duly impressed.
"When people go small, we can have Calvin play the 4. He can play the 3 and 2 also, so he's played a good role coming off the bench. I don't know what the rest of the league is like, but he's got to be one of the best production guys off the bench in the league."
After 9 Big 10 games, Calvin is averaging 6.89 points a game on .465 shooting from the field. He is hitting .429 of his three point attempts. And he is averaging 4.89 rebounds a game. These are impressive numbers for someone averaging 18 minutes a game.
But more than the points and rebounds, Brock is adding athleticm, enthusiasm, aggressiveness and good defense to the mix. He has embraced his 6th man role.
"I'm feeling real good about it. Anything I can do whenever I get in the game, anything I can do to help my team win a game.
"Everyone wants to be a starter, but it's not for everybody. I feel better coming off the bench. Everybody has different roles, and my role as sixth man is great for me. I try to do my best at every situation Coach puts me in. It's the best role for me right now."
The 6'-5" athlete wasn't able to enter grad school as hoped, but he has found another degree course of interest to him.
"I wanted to go into Education in a grad program. But I had a 2.7 grade point and needed a 3.0. They told me I needed 30 hours to get a degree in Community Health, so I decided to go into that."
Calvin has matured off the court as well as on it. Once considered somewhat irresponsible, he now has Coach Weber's approval for his personal growth. He is a walking billboard for the value of redshirting, and he is helping the Illini win. Few could ask for more.