As the big man who represents the little guy, Illinois senior center Mike Tisdale is one of the more popular players to arrive in Champaign-Urbana during recent memory.
From the small town of Riverton (roughly 30 minutes from the UI campus), the 7-1 Tisdale certainly fits the part of a fan favorite, especially when he’s displaying his uncanny shooting touch from the outside.
While the sight of Tisdale hitting long jumpers may bring much joy to the Illini faithful, it hasn’t always equated to enough wins during his first three seasons at Illinois.
For Illinois hoops to be more successful next season, Tisdale, the coaching staff and the Illini guards need to do a better job of focusing on post touches, thus making Illinois a more balanced team that doesn’t have to live and die by the jump shot and infrequent trips to the free throw line.
With that said, here’s a recap of Tisdale’s summer progress entering his senior season and a look back at his junior year, including his 2009-2010 statistics, game-by-game breakdowns, and top and bottom 5 games.
What’s Been Going on This Summer
After a disappointing end to his junior season (when he struggled and fouled against a Dayton team that was really physical with him during a NIT quarterfinals loss at the Assembly Hall), Tisdale reportedly hit the weights, where he has finally been able to pack on and keep the pounds.
Listed as 235 pounds on the FightingIllini.com Web site, Tisdale reported last week that he was now at 253 pounds.
Tisdale’s weight gain has been apparently noticeable, with college coaches and some pro scouts observing his bigger frame when the Illinois senior recently traveled to Las Vegas as part of a select squad of college players that practiced against Team USA.
Tisdale scrimmaged against the likes of Kevin Love and other NBA big men, and apparently held his own well enough that he was invited today with 9 other members of the select team to continue practicing against Team USA from August 10-13 in New York.
From all accounts down on campus, Tisdale is playing and looking like a much more confident man, mentoring (and even schooling) freshman big man Meyers Leonard all the while hoping to make his senior season a memorable one following a junior year that was his best at Illinois but still marked by inconsistency.
For more on the summer of Tisdale, see this recent post on the .54 caliber killer.
Recapping Tisdale’s Junior Season
Entering his second full season as a starter, Tisdale was a bit quiet in Illinois’ first three games before finally coming alive against a Wofford team that posed a tough inside threat in Noah Dahlman.
While Tisdale would score double figures in 10 of Illinois’ first 13 games (and look like a better conditioned player), he was still a victim of inconsistency from half to half and game to game, sometimes as a result of foul trouble, other times due to getting lost in the offense (i.e. not getting enough touches on the post), and in other cases of not playing aggressive enough.
Entering its Big Ten opener against Northwestern at home, Illinois was 8-4 and a symbol of inconsistency, with Tisdale one of those up-and-down players who could look so good at times but seem nonexistent at other points. Working where he belongs (in the post), Tisdale would respond with his best game as an Illini, scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds before fouling out in overtime, as Illinois got this must win against #25 Northwestern.
However, Tisdale would follow up with a stinker against Gonzaga (5 fouls in 11 minutes) and a quiet game against Iowa (7 points and just 2 rebounds in 27 minutes) before looking like a go-to-player against Indiana (getting to the line 14 times and scoring 27 points in the road win) and a game changer at home against Penn State (just missing a triple double with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocks).
While Illinois was 4-0 to start off the Big Ten, a three-game losing streak would follow, in large part to Tisdale having his toughest stretch of the season. At Michigan State, he would shoot just one field goal in 19 foul-plagued minutes; against Purdue, he would score just 5 points while fouling out in 20 minute; at Northwestern, he would score 14 points but get badly outplayed by NU big man Luka Mirkovic.
After this rough patch, the Illini would rebound with an impressive 5-game winning streak, as Tisdale was nothing spectacular but generally solid and much tougher in wins against Penn State, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State.
Illinois’ 5th-straight win – a shocker against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center – would be a turning point in the season for the big man. Keeping the Illini in the game with a big first half, Tisdale would score 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field, with the matter of how he scored most important. Illinois would keep Wisconsin off balance all night as point guard Demetri McCamey and Tisdale ran the pick and pop game to perfection.
The pick and pop would become a staple of the Illini offense for most of the rest of the season, with Illinois relying on it a bit too much at times. With that said, Tisdale would be more of a focal point the rest of the way, generally being more involved in the offense and shooting the ball efficiently from the field even as Illinois lost 5 of its last 6 conference games.
While Tisdale was almost a one-dimensional player (oftentimes just a jump shooter) come the Big Ten Tournament, he would flourish in this style of play during a huge win against Wisconsin at Conseco Field House. With Illinois needing to win its Big Ten Tourney opener to stay in the NCAA Tournament picture, Tisdale was huge in the pick and pop game en route to 21 points (on 8-for-11 from the field) and 8 tough rebounds. Ultimately, Illinois would be shut out of the Big Dance after losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals, where Tisdale was the victim of more foul trouble.
For the first two games of the NIT, Tisdale made up for quiet first halves with huge second halves that propelled the Illini to wins. In the final game of the season, a blowout loss to Dayton, Tisdale tried to take his game back in the post, where he struggled against the Flyers’ size, athleticism and quickness before succumbing to another foul out.
When clicking last season, Tisdale could be one of the most fun players to watch in the conference, especially when considering his amazing shooting abilities from the outside and his guard-like command of the fundamentals.
With that said, Tisdale was way too much of a perimeter player last season and needs to take his game inside, using his height to get Illinois some easier points and trips to the foul line (the Illini rarely got to the charity stripe all year).
Hopefully getting stronger combined with the Illini emphasizing more post touches will result in Tisdale getting on the block more often, where he can be an effective force when patient and outsmarting his opponents with his bag of fundamental tricks.
Against some teams (Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana and Penn State), Tisdale’s size can make him a go-to-guy in the post.
Against similarly-built squads (Purdue) and bigger teams (Wisconsin, Minnesota), his outside shooting ability serves him well as a specialist, especially in the pick-and-pop game.
Against the really physical teams (Michigan State), I’m not sure that Tisdale is a good play for the Illini, with a Leonard possibly looking like a better option, as discussed tomorrow in Part II of the Illinois Basketball Summer School Series.
Tisdale’s Junior Stats/Accomplishments
● Honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media.
● Averaged 11.9 points, 6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 0.8 assists, 1.4 turnovers and 3.3 fouls in 27.9 minutes per game last season.
● His 11.9 points per game were second on the team to fellow junior Demetri McCamey (15.1 points per game) and 20th in the Big Ten.
● His 6 rebounds per game were second on the team to fellow junior Mike Davis (10.7 rpg) and 12th in the Big Ten.
● Averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in the Big Ten conference season.
● Only Illini to start all 36 games last season.
● Was first in the Big Ten with a .585 field goal percentage.
● Second in the conference with a .839 free throw percentage.
● 4th in conference with 1.6 blocks per game.
● Had double-figure points 24 times as a junior.
● Fouled out 7 times last season.
Entering the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals, the 18-13 Illini could not lose if it wanted to keep its dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament alive (of course, Illinois would be denied from dancing anyways). Tisdale would not let the Illini lose in this game, playing an inspiring 35 minutes during which he was money in the pick and pop game, going off for 21 points on 8-for-10 from the field and being equally tough on defense and the boards (8 rebounds).
When Illinois traveled to Michigan State in mid-January, both teams were tied for first in the conference with 4-0 records. Unfortunately for the Illini, Tisdale would play more like a freshman than an upperclassman in this matchup with the Spartans as he got into early and needless foul trouble, got pushed out of the lane by the tougher Michigan State post players and failed to get a shot off until late in the second half when the game was well over. Tisdale would miss that shot and finish with just 2 points on 2 free throws in 19 minutes that truly showed how far the Illini were from the Michigan States of the league.
Effective and efficient (8 points on 4-5 from the field and 6 rebounds) but limited by 4 fouls and just 19 minutes in Illini blowout.
Logs just 16 minutes in this game, finishing with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Has 0 points at halftime and finishes with only 5 points and 4 rebounded while getting outplayed by Presbyterian’s much smaller and less-heralded big man Jake Troyli (16 points).
Looks dominant for a stretch in the first half as a result of more post touches and much better assertiveness, ultimately helping Illinois turn the tables on the pesky Terriers en route to an efficient 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
One of the few Illini to show up for the Thanksgiving weekend in Vegas, his effort (18 points on 8-for-10 shooting and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes) is not enough as Illinois bungles a 16-point halftime lead and falls at the buzzer.
Kept Illinois alive late in the game with a couple of big shots but wasn’t as efficient with his shooting (3-for-9 from the field, 12 points total) while going just 22 minutes due to 4 fouls.
Makes up for another no-show in the first half (0 points) with a gutty second half (12 points), including a game-winning bank shot and game-saving block in the final minute.
Struggles with pace en route to another scoreless first half but bounces back with 10 second-half points (on 4-for-4 from the field), including a huge tip-in and pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds, as the turnover-plagued Illini get lucky to win this game.
Best game of the young season, finishing with 12 points (all in the first half) and 5 rebounds but setting the tone early with unconscious shooting from the short corner of the 2-3 zone, a nasty dunk on Vandy big man A.J. Ogilvy, and controlled defensive toughness that was refreshing to see.
Doesn’t have as much of an impact as the Vanderbilt game but finishes with a solid 8 points (on 7 shots) and 9 rebounds during a 35-point smack down by the Illini.
Hot start (6 points in first 4 minutes) is diminished by first-half foul trouble and a soft second 20 minutes when he picked up 2 quick fouls, struggled with Georgia’s interior girth, had some questionable decisions and finished with just 2 points (10 on the game) before fouling out late in this disappointing Illini loss.
Was one of the more active Illini (14 points and 13 rebounds in 33 minutes) during this butt whipping from Missouri, but still too soft around the rim before eventually wearing out late in the second half.
The Illinois game plan involves going down low early and often, and the junior big man repays Bruce Weber with a career-high 31 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in overtime of a hard fought (and absolutely necessary) Illini victory.
Follows up brilliant Northwestern game with a stinker at the United Center, where he is in foul trouble all afternoon (due to poor positioning and some brutal decision making), fouls out with 7 minutes left in the game, and finishes with only 4 shots and 5 points in 11 forgettable minutes.
Is lucky not to have been benched (with Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson) following the Gonzaga game and gets away with just 7 points and 2 rebounds in 27 minutes that may not matter against Iowa but won’t be acceptable against other Big Ten teams.
Big bounce back game following the Gonzaga and Iowa contests, finishing with 27 points (including a clutch 13-14 effort from the line and a couple of big buckets late), grabbing 9 rebounds and staying on the floor for 38 minutes as Illinois comes back from a 15-point second-half deficit.
Just misses a triple trouble with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks, including a huge denial of a Talor Battle shot after missing the front end of a one-and-one with just seconds to go, to preserve a victory that wouldn’t have been possible without his length or the clutch shooting of Demetri McCamey.
Worst game of the season, picking up some silly fouls that limited him to just 19 minutes, struggling against Michigan State’s physicality en route to just one shot from the field, and finishing with a measly 2 points (both from the line) during a convincing Michigan State win.
Fouls out again (for the 3rd time in 6 Big Ten games) while finishing with just 5 points (2 of which came in the first minute of the game) and 5 rebounds in 20 ineffective minutes.
Final stat line (14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 6 rebounds in 37 minutes) looks somewhat decent but does not account for his lack of toughness (with Weber calling him out during a halftime interview on the Big Ten Network) or the fact that NU’s less talented big men Luka Mirkovic and Kyle Rawley pushed him around all night.
Had some nice moments as Illinois scored 40 points in the first half but was relatively quiet in the second half (with the exception of a big half-hook after Penn State rallied for a 4-point lead) before finishing with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 33 minutes.
Makes up for an inactive and scoreless first half with 12 points in the second and several big plays late in the game before a McCamey buzzer-beater won it for the Illini.
Efficient game (14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 33 minutes) where he looked dominant at times in the first half, got pushed around quite a bit in the second half, and hit some clutch free throws late to help Illinois hold off the Hawkeyes.
Played a much tougher game than his final stats indicated (6 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block) while giving 34 big minutes during a huge upset of the rough-and-tumble Spartans.
Best game in nearly a month (see the first Penn State game) as he was the only Illini to have a field goal until the 6-minute mark of the first half and not only kept the Illini in the game but the Badgers off balance all night while running the pick and pop with McCamey en route to 19 points (on 8-for-11 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line) in 37 minutes that reflected the 7-footer’s amazing jump-shooting abilities.
Finished with decent but not great numbers in 24 minutes (8 points on 4-for-8 shooting and 8 rebounds, 5 of which came on the offensive glass) but struggled with Ohio State’s 4-guard lineup at times during this Valentine’s Day Buckeye rout at the Assembly Hall.
Had a very nice complementary performance to McCamey (16 assists) and Mike Davis (a double-double and a career-high 5 rebounds), hitting some tough shots in the pick and pop game to silence the hostile Mackey Arena crowd and finishing with 12 points (6-for-11 shooting) but just 2 rebounds in 32 minutes as the Illini fell despite a valiant team effort.
Falls 1 point short of a double-double (9 points, 11 rebounds) in 37 minutes during which he wasn’t hitting in the pick and pop game but did some little things well, most notably sliding his feet against Michigan’s smaller and quicker front line and also using his length at the rim (even though he had just 1 block, Michigan missed a lot of layups due to his presence).
On a rare afternoon when his shooting touch wasn’t there (6 points on 3-for-10 shooting), responded with 8 rebounds (6 offensive) but struggled against Minnesota’s two seven footers, who pushed him farther out than he liked and got easy post-up position on him under the basket.
Was a bit quiet in the first half and fouled out with 7 minutes left in the game, but hit some big shots in the second half to keep Illinois in the game before the Buckeyes ran away late.
One of the few Illini who didn’t look tight in this must-win game to end the Big Ten regular season, making the most out of his opportunities from the field (4-for-6) and finishing with 16 points (8-for-8 from the line) in 29 minutes.
Absolutely fabulous game when Illinois could not have lost, killing Wisconsin in the pick and pop game en route to 8-for-10 shooting and 21 points, mixing up his jump shot with some nice head fakes for a couple of driving baskets, and playing tough defensively and on the glass (8 boards).
Foul trouble limited him to just 27 minutes (and 10 points on 4-for-7 from the field) before fouling out in the first overtime, but bounced back when he could have gone missing with a couple of big shots to keep Illinois in the game late in the second half after Ohio State went on a 20-0 run.
Makes up for a quiet first half by scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including a huge three with 1:30 to go and 4 big free throws late to allow the Illini to hold on against the hungry Seawolves.
Limited by foul trouble in the first half, plays the role of an energizer in the first 4 minutes of a second half during which Illinois runs away with a close game, and finishes with another efficient shooting performance (7/9 from the field) en route to 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in 24 minutes.
Fouls out with nearly 8 minutes in the game, struggling with the speed and physicality of Dayton while finishing with 6 points (3-for-6 from the field), 3 rebounds and 2 steals in just 20 minutes.
Top 5 Games
1. Illinois vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten Tournament (March 12, 2010)
As a loss to Wisconsin surely would have popped Illinois’ NCAA Tournament bubble, Tisdale was huge in the biggest game of the year, going for 21 on 80% from the field (mostly jump shots) and securing 8 strong rebounds.
2. Northwestern vs. Illinois (December 30, 2009)
With 4 bad nonconference losses and Gonzaga up next on the day after New Year’s, Illinois couldn’t afford to lose the Big Ten opener at home against the #25 Wildcats. Along with Mike Davis, Tisdale wouldn’t let the Illini lose, operating where he belongs in the post en route to a career-high 31 points and adding 11 key rebounds before fouling out.
3. Illinois vs. Wisconsin (February 9, 2010)
After Illinois’ huge win against #5 Michigan State days earlier, Tisdale kept Illinois in the ballgame against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, being the only Illini with a field goal until the 6-minute mark of the first half and working beautifully in step with Demetri McCamey in the pick and pop game en route to 19 points while staying out of foul trouble in 37 huge minutes of what was arguably Illinois’ biggest victory of the year.
4. Illinois vs. Indiana (January 9, 2010)
After two straight rough games against Gonzaga and Indiana, Tisdale was a clutch 13-for-14 from the free throw line in Bloomington, as his 27 points helped Illinois overcome a 15-point second-half deficit and get the huge road win.
5. Vanderbilt vs. Illinois (December 8, 2009)
Don’t let the 12 points (all in the first half) fool you; Tisdale took it to Vanderbilt big man A.J. Ogilvy on both ends, really outplayed the Aussie and helped set the tone for the Illini en route to a convincing win over the ranked Commodores at the Assembly Hall.
Honorable Mention: Penn State vs. Illinois (January 12, 2010)
His 7 blocks (along with 16 points and 13 rebounds) and presence on many other contested shots symbolize how good Tisdale can be when he utilizes the length God gave him down low.
Bottom 5 Games
1. Illinois vs. Michigan State (January 16, 2010)
Was nonexistent during Illinois’ first Big Ten loss of the season, finishing with more fouls (4) than shots (1) and points (2) combined in 19 brutal minutes.
2. Gonzaga vs. Illinois (January 2, 2010)
After going for 31 points in the Big Ten opener, Tisdale looked like he was trying to catch up on his sleep from New Year’s Eve, fouling out with 7 minutes left in the game and playing only 11 minutes total during an ugly personal performance in front of a sold out United Center packed with Illini fans.
3. Purdue vs. Illinois (January 19, 2010)
Wasn’t as bad as the Michigan State game three days earlier, but was hardly much better, finishing with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 5 fouls in just 20 minutes of a home loss to the Boilermakers.
4. Illinois vs. Northwestern (January 23, 2010)
Make that 3 straight bad Big Ten games for Tisdale, who had 14 points in 37 minutes but got outplayed and outmuscled by Northwestern big men Luka Mirkovic and Kyle Rowley, both of whom fail to evoke images of college basketball’s Twin Towers.
5. Dayton vs. Illinois, NIT Quarterfinals (March 24, 2010)
Struggled with Dayton’s speed and interior size and toughness before fouling out with 7 minutes left and just 6 points on the night.
Coming tomorrow: Part II of the Illinois Basketball Summer School series on Mike Tisdale.
Until then, I live you with this roller-coaster ride of a video.