Illini women’s basketball first in country with new jerseys

Illinois student-athletes line up on stage during the Nike Brand Identity Launch at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, on Wednesday.

By By: Stephen Bourbon

Debuting next season, the Illinois women’s basketball team will be the only women’s team in the country to have a jersey specifically fitted to the shape of the athlete.

Unveiled at Illinois’ identity rebrand with Nike, the team will don uniforms that have a different cut of jersey. The jersey has a silhouette more sculpted for the female frame to increase the range of motion for the athletes. The shoulder straps are thinner and closer to the neck on the shoulders. They slant down at an angle toward the armpit, rather than a straight line like previous models.

Sophomores Jacqui Grant and Sarah Livingston, as well as junior Kyley Simmons, modeled the outfits at the rebrand event Wednesday at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Illinois and Connecticut were allowed to practice with the new uniforms in January, but the Illini will be the only team wearing them during games in the upcoming season.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Todd Van Horne, Creative Director for Nike Football and Baseball. “When you see a lot of women’s athletes, they’re pulling the jerseys up over their shoulders (during games) to get a wider range of motion for their backs and shoulder areas. It’s something we heard over and over again.”

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Van Horne said Nike has received feedback from female athletes at Illinois and other programs, and that the new design is a change that could potentially impact all of women’s basketball.

“It was just that magic time to put the innovation and inspiration together,” Van Horne said.

Positive feedback from Illinois players and coaches led to the implementation of the new design in the rebranded jerseys.

“Any time you’re in the boat with Connecticut, that’s pretty neat,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “For Nike to say, ‘We want Illinois to wear this,’ along with Connecticut, that’s pretty cool. Our program hasn’t been in that league (with Connecticut) as much lately.”

Bollant said the three iterations of jerseys — white, orange and blue — will be available for the Illini to wear no later than January next season. Bollant said the coaching staff picked the design out of a lineup and worked with Nike to mold together the final product.

“They’re cutting edge,” Bollant said.

Bollant already said the new jerseys would help in recruiting players. The new-look gear with the “Fighting Illini bold” font — a new typography designed by Nike — across the chest and the brand-new “Victory Badge Logo” on the belt goes along with the new design to provide an entirely different look to the program.

“I’m already taking pictures and texting recruits tonight about it,” Bollant said. “You don’t always get texts back from the top kids in the country, but we’re getting texts back from the top kids in the country tonight.”

Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.