Newly married, Feliz has different perspective heading into offseason

Newly married, Feliz has different perspective heading into offseason

CHAMPAIGN — This story has some real "Love & Basketball" vibes to it. Just less drama. Plus a surprise wedding, albeit not decided by a game of one-on-one.

Illinois men's basketball guard Andres Feliz and his now wife Lisa Jo (Wygal) Feliz took the next step of their 18-month relationship Wednesday with a simple marriage ceremony at the Champaign County court house. Here's the catch — nobody knew ahead of time.

"Literally nobody," Lisa Jo said. "It was something just for us. We've been living together for two years never missing a day apart."

Of course, Andres, who proposed after Lisa Jo's birthday in February, did drop some hints. His Illini teammates simply didn't believe him when he told them his plans.

"I told some of my teammates, but since I play so much they didn't believe me," Andres said. "They were like, 'We'll believe you when we see the ring.' We both decided (to get married). We're obviously in love, and we've been together and know each other. We're pretty cool. We're kind of like best friends. We tell each other everything."

Andres and Lisa Jo met before the start of their sophomore year at Northwest Florida State. Lisa Jo played for the Raiders' women's basketball team, while Andres earned NJCAA All-American honors for the men. They lived in the same complex and ultimately started hitting the gym for workouts together.

"She was huge to help me and would rebound for me every time I used to go work out," Andres said. "She still does even here."

Andres asked Lisa Jo to move to Champaign with him after he signed with Illinois in April 2018.

"When he asked me, I was like, 'Oh, are you for real? This is a big step for you,'" Lisa Jo said. "He was like, 'I want you to come with me and be a part of this with me.' I've really liked it. The coaches are nice. The teammates are cool. It's a really good atmosphere."

Lisa Jo is still helping her now husband with his game.

"She tells me what to do," Andres said. "How I need to get my shot right. She pushes me."

"We know how to talk to each other about basketball," Lisa Jo added. "It's not like boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife. It's player to player."

There's even an occasional game of one-on-one.

"I'm up like 11-2," Andres said. "She beat me twice. She was a good player. She had a couple injuries (in the 2017-18 season) so that made her stop. She twisted her ankle like four times that year so she didn't play that much. She decided to stop playing basketball and more focus on school."

Lisa Jo had a different take on their one-on-one competitions. That's extended to the tennis court as they've started playing together after picking up rackets at Goodwill.

"Any time we play sports he likes to cheat," she said. "We go to the tennis courts by the Six Pack. Any time I hit it in the deep corner to get to his weak side he says it's out of bounds."

So ... nothing's really changed now that Andres and Lisa Jo are married. Of course, the surprise wedding means honeymoon plans have been put on hold. There's also the matter of their respective educations. But that doesn't mean Andres isn't planning a honeymoon.

"I'm really thinking for the break we might go to the Dominican Republic and spend time with family and my friends," the native of Guachupita, Dominican Republic said of the time he'll get away from Illini basketball at the end of the semester. "The honeymoon will be after we both get our degrees and get more set up. That's when we'll have to find a good place to go."

There's also still one more season at Illinois for Andres, who proved a crucial part of the Illini rotation as his first season in Champaign progressed. The 6-foot-2 guard put up 8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game and was at his best the last month-and-a-half of the season where he averaged 10.7 points in the last 14 games.

"When the Big Ten games started, I didn't know what it was really about," he said. "During the conference games, I started feeling more comfortable and seeing what I could do and what I could produce for the team. That's something I want to spend time on working on my confidence and everything that I could do. Dive more on the floor. Take more charges. Get more rebounds. That's something I really want to work on."

Andres' final stretch of the season was the type of play Lisa Jo knew he was capable of providing. She saw his confidence return, and he was playing like she saw from their time at Northwest Florida State.

"I was so proud of him," she said. "For me to be able to watch Andres grow into a man, it has been amazing being able to watch him every step of the way grow and humble himself. God has really blessed him, myself and us together."

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5605, by email at srichey@news-gazette.com and on Twitter@srrichey.

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