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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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team.

Giorgi Bezhanishvili’s Instagram account is about what you’d expect. Family is important to the Illinois sophomore forward, so you’ll find photos of him with his mom, brother and grandparents from his return trips home to Vienna and Rustavi, Georgia, in May. The unofficial ambassador of all things Illini athletics is also almost always decked out in orange and blue.

This summer also generated plenty of workout photos from Bezhanishvili. He was regularly shirtless in said photos. But why not? The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward is shredded after his summer with strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher. Down five pounds and in what he calls the “best shape” of his life.

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“I feel great, to be honest,” Bezhanishvili said. “I told Fletch (two weeks ago) after our workout, I’m like, ‘God bless you.’ Really. I just told him ‘God bless you’ because of how my body feels right now. After a long practice or workout usually your body hurts or your tired and exhausted. I was tired and I was exhausted, but my body didn’t hurt like last year. I’m in really great shape.

“I lost five pounds. I played at 240 last year. Less body fat percentage. Eating well. Our bodies are our machines. To have it in the best shape that you can will give you the best chance for success.”

Illinois coach Brad Underwood has seen the difference in Bezhanishvili.

“Giorgi might be in the best condition of any athlete I’ve coached,” Underwood said. “His work ethic and what he’s done in the weight room — how he’s changed his body — is remarkable.”

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