If there's one truth about the NBA Draft, it's that any 7-footer with average or better athleticism is a bonafide prospect. Illinois junior Center Mike Tisdale (7-1, 235) may seem like a project at times, but he is certainly on the radar screen of NBA GMs for 2011, if not 2010. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by coaches and media, he was one of the league's most improved players, finishing fourth in the Big Ten in field goal shooting, and second in the league in conference play FG percentage. He was the team leader in blocked shots, ranking fifth in the Big Ten.
He doesn't do all his work inside either, as he possess very nice form on his jump shot. In a sound thrashing of the Michigan Wolverines, Tisdale stepped out and knocked down a couple big treys, prompting opposing coach John Beilien to tell the media: "I didn't know he could do that. I didn't know he could Pittsnogle us."
Beilien was referring to the former West Virginia icon Kevin Pittsnogle who (according to a New York Times feature last March) is now well over 300 pounds, out of basketball and lives in a double-wide.
Tisdale should be available to avoid that fate as long as he gets his head right. After the Illini suffered their first loss of the season, he explained why he wasn't a big factor.
"Tough matchup you could say, quicker, stronger, it was tough for me," he said. "I didn't have quite the confidence I should have."
Exactly. Just like trying to pick up girls, it's all about confidence. His coach Bruce Weber gave described Tisdale's:
"He needs to be more confident as a person, and he can't decide beforehand, he over-analyzes, over-thinks things and then he makes decisions ahead of time, and then if it doesn't go right, right away he kinda gets on his heels and starts hanging his head," Weber said.
Weber discussed the steps he is taking to improve his body and mind.
"He does come around the office more than anybody," Weber said. "A lot of guys come in when they have good days, they don't come in when they have bad days. He listens, he's coachable, he's just a young kid and sometimes gets down on himself. He probably beats on himself more than anybody."
Tisdale is also well known for the overly publicized 6,000 calorie a day diet that the program has put him on, in the hopes that he will gain some weight and become a bulkier post presence. When I look around in a room full of sports writers, I think they share his diet. If Tisdale gets big enough to bump and grind with the big boys, he'll obtain the consistency that he lacks now. Becoming more sure of himself would help too.
He was the team's leading scorer in 11 games, more than any of his teammates. Over one five-game stretch, he averaged 19 points while shooting 58.8 percent. On the other hand, he was a useless waste of space in the NCAA Tournament and was about as intimidating as Ashley Tisdale in a crucial conference test at Wisconsin.
Still, it looks like he'll be a mid-second round pick in 2011, because his career arc (at this early stage at least) is reminiscent of former Illini big man Robert Archibald. He was never an actual star, but was serviceable, if not solid enough to be drafted 31st overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002.