College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Stephen Haas/The News-Gazette Illinois forward Kipper Nichols (2) drives to the basket against East Tennessee State forward Mladen Armus (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the State Farm Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign. Illinois won the game 73-55.

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The Illinois basketball chat is back after a two-week hiatus (half new website adjustment/half vacation for our beat writer). Have a question for the beat writer? Click here.

On the docket for this week's chat ... Questions about Kipper Nichols, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and the Illini's trip to Italy:

Any Kipper Nichols sightings? I hope Kip is the unknown piece that busts out this year! -- Sam Bricklayer

I actually just spent time earlier today talking with Kipper Nichols. Be sure to check out Sunday's News-Gazette to hear from the Illini redshirt senior. Nichols is the first to admit (and did) that last season was not a good one for him. He told me he's using that as motivation for his final season, and the Illini could really use him if he's at his peak, consistent powers. He's got a nice blend of physicality and athleticism, but has yet to put it all together. The 2019-20 season wouldn't be a bad time for that to happen.

Is Giorgi left- or right-handed? -- Bob Peete

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Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) shoots against Northwestern center Dererk Pardon, left, and guard Ryan Greer during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament in Chicago, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The sophomore big man is a lefty. That said, he showed during the 2018-19 season that he can finish around the basket efficiently with either hand. Needed this coming season? Some of those lefty jumpers to fall either from the mid-range area or three-point land.

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Utah forward Donnie Tillman (3) celebrates after making a three point shot against Oregon during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Oregon won 78-72. (AP Photo/Chris Nicoll)

What is the status of Donnie Tillman? -- Mike Shade

Is no news yet good news? After the Utah transfer visited Rutgers and Illinois back to back there hasn't been much in the way of updates on Tillman's status. That he apparently hasn't visited anywhere else would seem to bode well for the Illini given Rutgers can't really offer him anything Illinois also could. Given August is right around the corner, I would expect a decision from Tillman fairly soon, but there's not an official timetable for it.

When will we see the Italy basketball schedule? -- James Lewis

All of the details (namely what teams Illinois will play and when) have yet to be finalized. The Illini are leaving for Italy on Aug. 4 and will leave Italy on Aug. 14. Right now, the plan is to play three games probably on Aug. 6, 7 and 9, but a fourth could be added. Italian cities on the itinerary are Milan, Florence and Rome. I'll have more on the trip in the next week or so.

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).