A healthy and happy summer

A healthy and happy summer

CHAMPAIGN — Brad Underwood called his first summer at Illinois great. Then emphasized it.

"Not a good, but a great summer," Underwood said.

It was also a healthy summer for the Illini. No injuries to report with summer school ending Friday and players able to return home for a few weeks before the start of the 2017-18 school year and their first season with Underwood.

Returning big man Michael Finke was full go after sitting out the spring recovering from the foot injury that kept him out of Illinois' NIT run. Freshman guard Da'Monte Williams made steady progress in his recovery from knee surgery after tearing his left ACL in just the fourth game of his senior season.

"Knock on wood, yeah, it was great," Underwood said of the injury-free summer. "I think that's one of the big benefits of the weight program is it helps guys stay injury free. Any time you do that, it's a positive."

Williams was crushing the start of his final season at Peoria Manual — averaging 25.6 points in the first three games — when he was injured in a Rams' loss at Bloomington. That helped complete the Illini legacy's tumble from a potential top 50 recruit out of the top 150 players in the 2017 class.

Underwood didn't give a definitive timetable for Williams' full return, but did praise his rehab and recovery efforts.

"He partook in some of the drills without a lot of the cutting or doing any of that," Underwood said. "I think his progression has been a natural one. We'll see as he comes back and we start school.

"The one thing I think with an ACL is you don't rush anything. I don't like putting he's this percentage or that percentage. You go about your day-to-day grind in that. You work and strengthen it."

Williams was able to make gains in the weight room, though, along with the rest of the Illini freshmen. Strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher tweeted out before and after pictures of them all following the seven-week summer and said Williams went through a "major body comp change."

Illinois' returning players also continued to benefit from their second offseason with Fletcher. Underwood saw both improvement and areas where more work is needed.

"Body fats dropped," Underwood said. "Conditioning's good. It's not great yet, but that's what Fletch is for in the fall. ... I think they're finding out how good of condition you need to be in and how hard you have to work to (play the uptempo system). Sprinting is something that's not done often on the basketball court. We do that."

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