GodBold’s productivity off bench at an all-time high

_Editor’s note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down Sunday nights and decides which Illinois athlete or coach is our Illini of the Week. Student-athletes and coaches are evaluated by individual performance and contribution to team success._

After looking at the Illinois women’s basketball roster, one would not find the name Nu-Nu anywhere. The same goes for media guides and posters.

But once practice starts at the Ubben Basketball Complex, across from the Assembly Hall, the name Nu-Nu is heard almost as many times as a basketball bounces on the court.

Nu-Nu is the preferred nickname for junior guard Adrienne GodBold.

“When I was younger, there was this song where the chorus was ‘nu-nu, yeah yeah,’” GodBold said. “My aunt said I would dance to the song, so then my aunt started calling me Nu-Nu.”

GodBold’s nickname isn’t her only surprising characteristic. Based on her basketball statistics — 10.8 points per game, 52.4 percent field goal shooting and 27.3 minutes per game in conference play — it would appear she is a productive starter for Illinois head coach Jolette Law.

But GodBold’s role in the rotation isn’t so clearly defined, and is the reason Illinois normally outscores its opponent’s bench. GodBold is Law’s prized weapon off the bench — a position they both prefer.

“I know Adrienne extremely well,” Law said. “It’s why I call her Nu-Nu. I know she wants to do something so bad when she’s in the game. I’m not saying she can’t start, but she gets out there and tends to rush things a little bit.”

GodBold started periodically at the beginning of the season, but Law soon noticed some trends when GodBold began games on the bench.

“I tried starting her,” Law said. “I did some research, and the best games I have from Nu-Nu is when I let her watch the game, see what’s going on, assess what’s happening and then come in and be a spark-plug off the bench.”

“I was too excited when I started,” GodBold said. “I’d get a little frantic and start over-thinking everything. I didn’t get a chance to observe from the bench like I like to do.”

GodBold doesn’t see being a bench player as a negative to her skill set and has embraced her unique position on the team. It’s not hard when she’s besting her own career-highs every other week like she did Sunday in a loss to Purdue, where she scored her current career-high of 25 points.

“We’ve talked about everybody stepping up and playing their role on the team,” GodBold said. “If my role is to sit on the bench for the first few minutes, then I’m good with that.”

When GodBold finally enters the game, she impacts the action in all phases. Despite her increased production on the offensive end, she still considers herself a defensive specialist, and the short time on the bench at the beginning of games causes GodBold to make mental notes on her future defensive assignment.

“I focus on getting stops,” GodBold said. “When I get in, if this player goes right, I’m not going to let her go right. If she does left-right and then pulls up for a jumper, I don’t want her to get that move on me.”

Point guard Lydia McCully appreciates GodBold’s defensive tenacity but believes that her athleticism and size — GodBold is one of the taller players on the team at 5-foot-10 even though she is listed as a guard — are assets that make her extremely valuable.

“If I’m throwing a bad pass at Nu-Nu, chances are she’s going to catch it,” McCully said. “She saves me in turnover areas, so I love having Nu-Nu on the court.”

GodBold has been a lone bright spot for a team that has mustered only eight wins all season. While reflecting on the current state of the program, GodBold chooses her words carefully in hopes of not over-thinking things like she used to do when she was in the starting lineup.

“I know that we’re a lot better than what we’re playing like,” GodBold said. “I know what we’re capable of doing. We’re capable of beating ranked teams. If we figure that out as a team, everybody should watch out for us.”