Illinois Basketball: Does Kipper Nichols have the NBA in his future?

CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 31: Kipper Nichols
CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 31: Kipper Nichols /

Illinois basketball forward Kipper Nichols had a great weekend for the Illini, scoring 16 points against DePaul, and then topping that on Sunday against Marshall with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The ceiling is very high for Nichols, as I think he will be a huge key to the Illini’s success moving forward this season and beyond. After the weekend, former Illini great Deon Thomas was very high on his potential in the future as well.

“No doubt in my mind Kipper Nichols could be a pro,” he said. “He has no ceiling.”

After this statement by Thomas, this raised a question to me and I am sure a lot of other Illini fans; will Kipper Nichols make the NBA someday?

From the first time I saw that Nichols had transferred to Illinois, I was very excited.  After doing some research I was very impressed with his athleticism and strength.

Now, I know it is very early to judge him as far as making the NBA someday.  But, the way he has played early on in his career makes me think it might be possible for him to sneak into the NBA.  Here’s why.

First of all, Nichols already has NBA size.  I have heard numerous announcers comment on his size during games the past few years.  At 6-foot-6, 225-pounds, Nichols has a very big and physical body.  The frame that he has, gives him the potential to add even more muscle than he already has.  Rarely will he get outmatched strength-wise this year.

Secondly, Nichols has really only played just two-thirds of a season in his young collegiate career, as he had to sit out during last season’s fall semester due to NCAA transfer rules.  He averaged just 4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in 21 games last season, but obviously, because he missed the first half of the season, it was tough to adjust to playing Big Ten opponents almost right off the bat.  To go along with that, John Groce definitely used him pretty poorly, as he should’ve gotten a lot more minutes during the season.

Along with that, Kipper has some big-time athleticism.  He is a very tough matchup, as he is kind of a hybrid forward.  You can’t really put a guard on him because he is often too big, but you also can’t always put a big on him because his athleticism is too much a lot of the time.  Not only can he finish inside, but he has developed a really nice three-point jumper that makes him a dual-threat type of player.

As Deon Thomas said, Kipper really has no ceiling as to how much he could develop during his Illinois career. So far this season, he has averaged 12.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, which I expect to increase by season’s end.

Next: Previewing Illini games No. 6-10

I don’t know if I am ready just yet to say that he is going to be in the NBA, but with some of the players I see in the NBA now, I think if he continues to improve and get stronger and quicker he has a chance.  Who knows, maybe Nichols could eventually find his way into the NBA someday.