Mike Tisdale is one of the best shooters on the Illinois basketball team, and his teammates have set him up for mid range jumpers and post moves all season. He is averaging double digits in scoring, and the Illini are 14-0 when he scores at least 10 points. Coach Bruce Weber talks about that statistic.
"It's been most of the home games if you look at it. He did get double digits at Northwestern also. I think it's a nice start for him. If he can start making shots both at home and on the road it helps.
"One of the things that's keeping him out of the game is foul trouble. He gets some ticky tack fouls. Some of it is his strength and agility are not where they need to be.
"I've got to be careful getting him out with one because if he gets one he seems to get another ticky tack foul. It's almost like he tries to avoid it and ends up getting it. But when he gives us scoring, especially some inside presence, we're a much better team. There's no doubt about it."
Tisdale is humble in his appraisal.
"I just think it means we're moving the ball real well. The guards are penetrating, and it gives me easy shots."
The 7'-1" sophomore has worked hard to develop his strength and confidence since he arrived at Illinois out of tiny Riverton, Illinois. The improvement in his second year is obvious.
"I have more experience and more confidence shooting the ball. As I see more minutes, hopefully it will give me more confidence.
"The extra strength has helped in a lot of ways. I hold my own now in the post. I don't have to shoot the outside jumper every time. I can score a little bit in the post. I can get closer to the basket to score.
"It also helps me battle inside. Last year, I was kind of intimidated by bigger guys. Obviously, I didn't have a chance to hold my own then. So far this year, I've been doing all right, and I hope it continues."
One of the areas Mike still needs to improve is his rebounding. Weber explains what he must do to improve that part of his game.
"It's off season. He's had a nice sophomore year. We hope he's starting to get a little tougher mentally and not get down on himself as much. But it's gonna come from strength, weight room, explosion, understanding he's got to bend his knees to get a better base. So now he can not only hold off people inside, but to close out and move his feet in each direction.
"That's gonna be his big step. I've joked with our guys he's not gonna get rebounds. It's just not happening. He can block out. If he just blocks his guy out and limits him, he's doing his job. Because he's not capable of going and getting more than 3 or 4 rebounds unless it bounces to him.
"Chester (Frazier) rebounds well because he can go and get balls when Mike does his job blocking people. His legs are so long, and he's so worried, he's trying to block his guy out. And that takes so much effort that I don't think he always gets sight of the ball. And then to change direction takes him so long. That comes from bending the legs and the base. So I think right now our focus is make sure he's blocking out."
Tisdale is dedicated to making more improvement this next offseason.
"I've gained a lot of upper strength, and now I need to get stronger lower. My legs need some more rebuilding for explosion for rebounds. I've got to improve my base, and hopefully that will improve my rebounding.
"Any time you see what you can do, you just want to keep getting that much better as you go on. The improvements I've made from last year to this year make me want to improve even more for next year."
Actually, he has had somewhat better rebound statistics the last few games. Weber has a theory about that.
"He's watched some film. I know he's heard it from everybody, the fans, the media and the coaches. Maybe he took it to heart a little bit. Some of it might be some matchups. But it definitely helps if he can get 5-6 rebounds. If he steals a putback here and there, it makes it even easier on us."
Mike can be his own worst enemy, so perhaps relaxing and trusting has helped.
"I'm just not worrying about it. Coaches help me out every day in practice. It's a good thing, not a bad thing."
Another important part of Mike Tisdale's improvement is his weight gain. Weighing around 200 pounds as an entering freshman, Mike has maintained a 6000 calorie daily diet and now weighs almost 240. His dedication has paid off, but it is truly difficult to eat that much.
"It is, it really is. It seems like you're always eating. You're sweating. Every time you get up you think you're going to explode."