5. Hopefully this was a confidence builder for the Illini
We are entering a new world of Illinois basketball, and the players on the team need to have confidence in their game if we want any chance to do anything come March.
There were multiple players on Friday night who had games that could boost their confidence moving forward. The main player I am looking at is Coleman Hawkins.
Hawkins has played some good basketball since coming back from his injury. He is now going to be looked to for more production.
In the first six games Hawkins played this season, he shot 5-of-24 from three-point range. 20.8% isn’t a good number by any means, but he has improved over the last three contests. He was 2-of-6 against Colgate and 3-of-5 against Missouri.
Having another big game against Fairleigh Dickinson would only boost his confidence even higher. Hawkins ended up shooting 5-of-8 from three-point range against the Knights. If we can get that type of shooting out of him for the rest of the season, then Illinois has a chance to do something special.
I believe the playing time that Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn received on Friday night could help with his confidence too.
Gibbs-Lawhorn hasn’t been getting much playing time lately, as he hadn’t played more than three minutes in the prior four games. But with the new look Illini, Gibbs-Lawhorn is going to have to play more.
Underwood subbed Gibbs-Lawhorn in the game early on, and this meaningful action will only help his confidence. He finished the game with nine points and four rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting from the field.
You can tell Gibbs-Lawhorn just wants to go, go, go, and sometimes this gets him in trouble. He needs to find a way to hone that energy and use it for good, as he had four fouls on the night. We need Gibbs-Lawhorn on the court and getting in foul trouble is not good.
I would imagine this was a confidence-builder game for Ty Rodgers as well. There have been a lot of question marks about where Rodgers should play, but against Fairleigh Dickinson, he showed some great ability. Rodgers can distribute the ball, and he is a leader on the court. This kid can do everything for the Illini.