Get The Skinny On Illini Davis, Tisdale

The Fighting Illini have relied heavily on sophomores to carry them this season. One area of major improvement has been the play of inside players Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. The splendid splinters have made up for their lack of bulk and strength with quality shooting and teamwork. Their continued progress this year and beyond will determine Illinois' immediate future in basketball.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber spoke recently about the strengths of his sophomore power forward and center and the things they need to work on for next season. As should be obvious to everyone, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale both need to get stronger.

"Strength and weight. For both Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis, weight coach Jimmy Price has got to be their best friend. No matter what, they've got to get some strength. Better bases, just to be able to hold their ground.

"Mike Davis can expand his game by being a little stronger inside and continue to use his shooting touch. And he's really got to start working on ball handling and a triple threat game. That is important if he wants to make strides.

"He watches one NBA game, and he teases he's this guy. I think he really likes Kevin Durant. Well, if you want to be like him, you've got to work on some of those things on the perimeter to make some strides. I don't know if he can get that far, but that's a nice goal. If it's a motivator for him, a role model, then let's see if we can work on those things and get to that level."

Davis endured tonsilitis and a bout with Bell's Palsy during the season, but he is back to full health now.

"He had a tough ten days. He had no feeling in his face, and he was self-conscious about it. It was bothersome. I tried not to make a big deal about it, and he didn't want to speak to the media.

"Maybe it was good for him to develop some toughness and work through some things. He talks about how Chester gives us so much energy even when he's hurt. So maybe he's getting some toughness and learning to work through difficult times."

Mike Tisdale certainly needs more strength, especially in his lower body. But he also needs to remain confident of his abilities even when he is struggling. He has made definite strides this year, but he still hasn't shown all he can do.

"I texted him the night after the Michigan State game and said, 'I think you grew up the second half'" Weber explained. "He got his butt down on the block, he made some hooks, got them to foul him. They had to rotate people.

"And he went to Penn State and did a similar thing. The problem is he's so skinny, if we put him on the block and they push him, we hope we get a good call on that for his sake. Otherwise, he's gonna run out. If they're gonna push him and foul him, he's gonna give in and fade away or not go in there.

"But I'm pleased with what he's done, and hopefully he can continue it into the tournament. At the end of the game at Penn State, we wanted the ball to go inside. I was a little disappointed he faded away, and the other time we didn't get it into him like we hoped. You've got to find a way to score at the end of the game. If he's got the hot hand, if he's got the hook in there, we've got to get it to him.

"I think Tisdale has grown confidence-wise."

Weber believes either Davis or Tisdale could have been the most improved player in the Big 10 this year.

"I think you could go with either Mike Davis or Mike Tisdale. Mike Tisdale probably got a few more minutes last year and more success. But both those guys have made big strides.

"Mike Davis has made big strides. And if you have success, you're rewarded. That's why he was 2nd team on one and 3rd team on another, and first or second in the league in rebounding depending on which one you look at.

"I think the best thing about our team, to the man, everybody has made improvement. That's why we went from a 10 seed to a 2 seed (in the Big 10 Tournament)."

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