CHAMPAIGN — Illinois coach John Groce wasn’t willing to commit Tuesday to injured guard Joseph Bertrand playing when the eighth-seeded Illini tip off the Big Ten tournament Thursday, but he’s confident the reserve guard is making progress toward returning.
Bertrand became the first Illinois player to miss a game because of an injury (shoulder) Sunday at Ohio State.
“I wouldn’t say definitely. He’s getting better. He’s day-to-day right now,” Groce said. “I like the progress he’s made. I thought he looked really good (Monday). I anticipated him being not quite as far along as he was (Monday), which was great.”
The key between now and Thursday is not only to get Bertrand feeling better, but to get the junior enough reps in practice so he will feel comfortable with the game plan.
“Tracy (Abrams) was a little banged up before a game this year. He didn’t practice, and we played him in the game and he was OK,” Groce said.
“We’ve got a plan here over the next few day to continue to activate Jo Jo so we can put him in a position where he’s ready to go and help our team.”
Illinois is preparing to play with Bertrand, who averages 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds, but will be ready if he can’t go.
“Jo Jo is a competitor, wants to play and we’re going to plan as if he’s going to be ready to go for us. We also have to plan to adjust and a lot of that will be determined where he’s at at tipoff on Thursday,” Groce said.