Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Northwestern

Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) drives
Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) drives / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 5

2. The development of Ty Rodgers continues to amaze me

I can sit here and tell you that Ty Rodgers is a really good player. But, when you look at the box score, Rodgers didn’t have a spectacular game by any means.

Rodgers finished the win over Northwestern with six points, four assists, and three rebounds. He was 2-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. So, why do I say Rodgers’ development amazes me?

It is one of those things where you have to have watched Rodgers last season and then watched him on Tuesday night to see the massive improvements. The first thing that stands out to me is his footwork.

Rodgers never used to be someone who could take a player off the dribble. He was someone who was more of a middleman to get the ball from point A to point B. Now, Rodgers can bring the ball up the court and use his great footwork to get past a defender. He can also get the defender off balance and drive the ball well using his footwork.

To piggyback off the footwork note, I think Rodgers’ moves in the paint have improved. There was one time specifically that stood out to me. Rodgers picked up his dribble in the paint, and without moving his pivot foot, he was able to do two or three moves that got the defender out of the way and enabled him to make a bucket.

I believe Rodgers’ free throw shooting shows how much he has improved as a player as well. This is a kid who you dreaded going to the charity stripe as a freshman. Rodgers hit 38.7% of his free throws last season. That number has now jumped to 68.4% as a sophomore.

The development of Rodgers is evident to me. He is someone who has taken a big leap from year one to year two. This kid has a lot of talent, and Illinois is bringing that talent to the forefront.