St. Louis power forward Tyler Griffey was a relative unknown when he was recruited. He didn't play on the AAU circuit, so his ratings were unrevealing. But he has played extremely well so far, and he should help Illinois a great deal this season.
Griffey committed to Illinois two years ago. It has been a long wait before he could don an Illini uniform.
"I've been looking forward to this since my junior year, the day I committed. I can't wait to get started."
The Lafayette High School product is pleased Illini coach Bruce Weber sees potential in him.
"I think I've done all right. I've got to continue to get better. I need to be aware on a daily and weekly basis. I need to get better every single day and learn something new every single week.
"So far, I've done that. I hope to do that throughout my career here. If I do that and keep improving, take care of the ball and be consistent, I think I'll be all right."
Instead of playing AAU ball the past two summers, Griffey traveled overseas with the Adidas Nation group. Most ratings experts didn't get to watch his development, but he believes the experience was extremely valuable on and off the court.
"Absolutely. I think that really helped me, being on my own and getting adjusted to being away from home. And it helped me on the court. I can concentrate totally on basketball and school, and I have no other outside factors I'm concerned about. It helped a lot."
The humble 6'-9", 225 pounder shot over 40% from the three point line in high school, making some feel he was soft and unwilling to bang in the post. But he has shown an all-around game that includes fighting for rebounds, defending, scoring and passing close to the basket.
"I always like to play. I knew the adjustment would take a little bit, but I think I've taken everything in stride."
Griffey has adjusted rapidly to the speed and intensity of Illini workouts. He credits a strong work ethic.
"I'm in the best shape of my life right now. There's no question about it. We had about a 2 and 1/2 week break in between summer session and fall. I went home and ran a mile every day to get in as much shape as possible.
"I came in and surprised myself in the conditioning workouts. I've done really well, and I think I've impressed the coaches too. I'm really happy with the way I've performed in conditioning."
He wants to learn from the upperclassmen, and he said they have been a big help to him.
"The leadership's been great. I'm over at Mike Davis' house all the time. I try to learn from him, watch him practice on the court, just watch the things he does. I think it's a great learning experience for me to watch him perform on the court."
"If we work together and stay strong, and we keep learning every single day, yeah. We have the potential. This should be a fun four years."
Weber says Griffey could be in the top group of 7-8 players this season.
"I think Tyler's played real well. He kind of surprised us. He wasn't on that AAU circuit like some of the other guys, he was with the Adidas Nation stuff. So his so-called ratings kind of dropped. And we didn't get to see him as much because we couldn't go to those events.
"I think when he got here he surprised the coaches. He's a good listener. He learns pretty quickly. All the things I say, he's trying to do. He's pushing some of the other guys. I don't know if they realize it, but the coaches feel that way. He's got to prove it in some live action."