Mike Tisdale’s journey to Illinois

Always working to improve something — from gaining weight to stepping up the defensive end of his game — Illinois junior center Mike Tisdale isn’t the type to take a summer off. Instead, he spent the summer participating in the 2009 USA Basketball World University Games trials in Colorado Spring, Colo. The experience taught him what it’s like to play against the best in the country.

One half of the Mike and Mike duo, Tisdale averaged 24.7 minutes last season, starting all 34 games. He ranked third on the Illini in both scoring and rebounding — averaging 10.2 points and 4.0 rebounds. And he led the team with 48 blocked shots in 2008-09, good for fifth in the Big Ten.

But basketball isn’t his only strength. Tisdale was also an Academic All Big-Ten selection a year ago.

Can you tell me about your signing day?

“I just had it at my high school. You know, just my family was there, a lot of media and things like that. It was pretty exciting.”

Did you do anything special to celebrate?

“Not really. I knew I was going here the whole time, just had to sign on the line I guess. So (it was) just kind of another day after that.”

When did you decide on Illinois?

“My junior year. I always wanted to come here, but junior year they offered me and I took it that night.”

What other schools were recruiting you?

“Most of the Big Ten schools, a few of the Big 12 schools, stuff like that. I mean, it was good.”

Were there any of those that you considered?

“I considered Purdue. SIU Carbondale was another one just because I know the coaches. Wisconsin was a good school, just really couldn’t go wrong.”

What made Illinois the choice for you?

“It’s close to home. It’s a good school— academically and athletically. I liked the coaches real well. And it just seemed like the right place.”

Did you attend any events at Illinois beforehand?

“Oh yeah, I came to all of the Midnight Madness, the games, and all that other fun stuff.”

What was it like going to those events knowing you would be playing for Illinois?

“It was pretty exciting to know that, you know, I’m going to playing on that court and everybody’s going to be watching what I’m doing.”

Did you mostly go to Illinois events or did you go to events at any other schools?

“I stuck to Illinois events. Once I got offered, that’s kind of where I stayed.”

Was there anyone in particular influencing you to pick Illinois?

“No. I was the first one to come here from my family. My parents were excited. They wanted me to be somewhat close to home and they knew it was a good school, so they were excited.”

Do they like being able to come to the games?

“They like to go to all the games and being this close to home helps.”