Mystery injury aside, Tisdale ready to ball

By Jeff LaBelle

By the day, Mike Tisdale grows larger.

Not only physically – he’s consumed six thousand calories a day since early last season to put on weight – but also strategically. Tisdale, or “Tizzy” as sophomore guard Demetri McCamey calls him, will likely be the Illinois basketball team’s starting center come November. After averaging 3.6 points per game across all 35 contests last year, Tisdale said he’s ready, and he’ll have to be.

The Daily Illini spoke with Tisdale on Tuesday at Illinois basketball media day. The 7-foot-1, 245-pound tower talked about what he took away from his freshman year, why he can’t always listen to teammate Bill Cole, and what he expects from himself and the team in the coming season.

By the way, he’s gained 30 pounds since this time last year.

Daily Illini: After last season, when you sat down and assessed your year, what were the things you wanted to improve on the most?

Mike Tisdale: Coach was always talking to me about being more confident. Confidence is a real big deal. If you have it, you make more shots, and you need it to play against bigger guys. You get this feeling that you can actually play with them, that you’re not afraid to grab a rebound and stuff like that.

DI: Are you saying you were intimidated last year?

MT: You know, a little bit. These guys were outweighing me by 40 pounds or something like that. I was playing against guys that were 6’4″ or 6’5″ in high school, basically stocky football players, but they were nothing compared to the Big Ten. I think I got used to it, though.

DI: Everyone seems to think you have the traits of a European baller, a guy that loves to shoot. Are they asking you do be that kind of player this year?

MT: Yeah, we were just talking about that. Coach always talks about taking that “shawty Europe.” They want me to take jumpers and dribble more. It’s an ongoing joke. But they think I can do it.

DI: Have you been working on your hook shot at all?

MT: I’ve had a hook, and Coach always gets on me that I don’t use it enough. It’s the whole confidence thing again. Having the confidence to do that in a game is what really matters.

DI: You had surgery a few weeks ago for a muscle hernia in your right let. Tell me about that.

MT: It’s getting better. I should be back in a week, full-go, and should be ready for the Orange and Blue scrimmage and hopefully and the first exhibition game.

DI: What was it exactly, the injury?

MT: That’s a real good question. I don’t even know, something random. My doctor said he’s seen it five times in 25 years. I had two sets of staples in my right leg. They said people that don’t even exercise get it.

DI: Weird. So tell us a little bit about the competition for the forward spot next to you. Who’s going to win that battle?

MT: We have so many people that can fit in that spot – Mike (Davis), Stan (Simpson), Dominique (Keller), you know, Richard Semrau, Bill Cole. It’s just a matter of who we’re playing for each game, I think. We’ve get plenty of matchups we can throw at anybody. You can put Calvin Brock there, too. It depends who we’re playing.

DI: Bill Cole says you’ve set some lofty personal goals for yourself this year. Care to elaborate?

MT: I joke when I’m with Bill. Bill tells me he’s going to average 30 points this year so, you can’t really predict your stats like that. But I want as many minutes as possible, and as many points as will help the team, simple as that.

DI: What did you learn playing behind Shaun Pruitt last year?

MT: There was a question last year whether I should have redshirted or not, but I think playing was the right decision. Shaun was one of the better centers in the Big Ten and I was able to step in right away and learn from him. I got to start a few games, I know what’s like, and I’m already in the flow for this year.