They noticed a difference as soon as Illinois senior center Mike Tisdale reported for duty earlier this month at the U.S. basketball training camp. One of the college players who would compete against NBA stars battling for spots on the national team, the 7-foot-1 Tisdale arrived weighing 253 pounds, a considerable jump from his playing weight in the 230s much of the season.
They noticed a difference as soon as Illinois senior center Mike Tisdale reported for duty earlier this month at the U.S. basketball training camp.
One of the college players who would compete against NBA stars battling for spots on the national team, the 7-foot-1 Tisdale arrived weighing 253 pounds, a considerable jump from his playing weight in the 230s much of the season.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and Villanova coach Jay Wright saw the makeover. It didn't take Tisdale long to feel differently on the court.
"I'm not thinking too much about I have to hold my position against this guy or this guy is so much bigger than me,'' Tisdale said. "Those (NBA) guys looked big, but now I'm closer than I was. It gives me more confidence to go up against them.''
After years of battling his body in trying to gain weight and strength, the Riverton High School graduate is seeing some gains on the scale and the basketball court. Perhaps in part because of his added weight, Tisdale was tabbed among 10 college players from the original 20 on the select roster to continue prepping the national team for the world championships.
Tisdale will travel to New York for a week in mid-August.
"That's too good an experience to pass up,'' Tisdale said.
With his weight climbing thanks to intense offseason workouts and maturation, Tisdale had a new feeling of confidence against the elite from college and the NBA. He's still following the same plan as he did in his first three seasons -- weight lifting and 6,000 calories per day -- but his weight and strength are starting to take hold. Maybe it's just age, Tisdale said. He was 17 when he joined the Illini as a freshman, and he won't turn 21 until later this fall.
It's given him hope that he could someday hit 280, a good playing weight for a 7-footer. He hoped to reach 265 by preseason conditioning, when he will likely lose a few pounds.
"My freshman year, I was working my butt off, doing a lot of the same stuff, eating a lot of the same stuff,'' Tisdale said. "It just wasn't happening. I don't know if it's an age thing. It seems now when I do stuff, it's getting results. I wish I could have found it a few years ago.
"Those guys at 280, that's a pretty good weight. I'm not there. If I continue to work and my body keeps cooperating, I can be there.''
During summer intrasquad scrimmages, Tisdale is getting more comfortable at the 3-point line and taking advantage of freshman Jereme Richmond, whose heady game includes the sometimes lost art of feeding the post. The extra weight might also make Tisdale tougher and a better defender.
While Tisdale said he shot close to 50 percent from the international 3-point line during the training camp, his best memory was blocking a shot to stop a drive by Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.
"He tried to flip up that shot,'' Tisdale said. "I hit it off the backboard. It felt pretty good.''
Tisdale's offseason work is just part of Illinois' intensive offseason training after missing the NCAA tournament last season. Others on the select roster earlier this month also made gains. Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer was bigger. So was Purdue's JaJuan Johnson. It won't get any easier in the paint in the Big Ten this winter.
"It will be interesting in the front court,'' Tisdale said.
For now, Tisdale feels more like he's in the same weight class.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.