Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber is on the committee that helps oversea USA basketball, and he says Mike Tisdale was selected to replace Mike Davis to try out for the national team in part due to his efforts and in part due to Tisdale's ability.
"I guess it's one advantage of being on the committee. Both Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis were on the board when we met at the Final Four. And they've had a little bit of trouble getting guys. It's a big commitment. Guys are in summer school, some don't want to go.
"So I kind of said, hey, do you still need a big guy? With Tisdale on the board, is it possible to get him into the trials? It got okayed by the committee. It's a nice opportunity for Mike Tisdale, just to be part of it. Whether it was Mike Davis or Mike Tisdale, it's a good thing."
Tisdale has a glorious opportunity, but he's not guaranteed a position. He travels with Weber Tuesday to Colorado, and has two short days to secure a spot on the travel squad.
"Obviously, if he makes it it's a great experience, a chance to represent your country, travel and hopefully get better playing more games," Weber explains. "We'll just see if Mike's up to the task. With Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) being the coach and running the swing offense, he's always used big guys who can shoot the ball. So I think either Mike would have fit into that system."
Weber is a member of the committee that aids the selection process, but Tisdale will have to earn the spot on his own.
"The committee has some input, along with the coaches and the USA basketball people. Every time there's a practice, they're evaluated. And then you've got to put it together. You're gonna need some size, you're gonna need some shooters and defenders. Obviously, Mike fits in because he's a big guy who can shoot the ball. I know Bo is impressed by him, but he has to impress everybody at the trials."
Tisdale is excited for the opportunity to represent his country.
"It's pretty cool to think I have a chance to wear USA on the front of my basketball jersey. It blows your mind at first, it's crazy. I've got to really try hard to make this team.
"I'm looking forward to getting to play with some of these guys. There are good players, good coaches. If I make the team, I'll get to travel and play against some of the best guys in the world."
It never crossed his mind he might have an opportunity like this.
"To be honest, no. I'm kind of shocked about it. It's just awesome. It's a good opportunity for me. Hopefully, I'll come through. It would be my first time out of the country, overseas, and I'm excited about it. It would be a new experience for me."
Of course he is sorry about the reason for his selection, and he'd rather have known about it long in advance.
"It would have been nice to know ahead of time. Things happen. It's unfortunate Mike Davis got hurt. I feel bad for him. But it gave me an opportunity, one I wouldn't have had originally. I'm thankful for it."
Tisdale realizes he can't expect any favors from his coach or from Ryan, who made recruiting contact with him while at Riverton High School.
"There's gonna be nothing easy. Coach Ryan isn't gonna take it easy on anybody. Coach Weber said to be a leader and get back in shape, and I've been doing that. I've been running every day for the last week or so. I feel pretty good, so that's about all I can do. Play hard and hopefully get a chance."
He admits to nervousness, but he will do his best to make the team.
"I feel a little pressure. I'm a little nervous. It's a good chance for me. I've got to go out there and prove that I can play."
Weber seconds those thoughts.
"Once he gets there and sees what it's about, there'll be nerves. And he's a kid that worries about things. But at the same time, he's just got to go and play. He's got to do what he does well."