Illini notebook: Cole drawing inspiration from Butler’s Hayward

John Supinie

Illinois forward Bill Cole majors in consumer economics, and some day he wants to work in the stock market.

Cole saw his stock rise last season as a junior, when he went from a seldom-used reserve in his first two basketball seasons to a starter honored as the team's most improved and the Matto Award winner for leading the Illini in hustle stats.

With a goal of reaching double-figure scoring and improving his output on a team looking to move forward after failing to reach the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last three seasons, Cole found a role model: Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward.

The lanky Hayward led Butler to within his desperation half-court shot of winning the national title before declaring for the NBA draft. Not blessed with an abundance of muscle or eye-popping athleticism, the 6-foot-9, 207-pound Hayward nevertheless dazzled them with smarts, toughness and skill.

"Nothing he did seemed out of my world,'' Cole said. "At the same time, he didn't do one thing great, but he did a lot of things extremely well. If I could get anywhere close to what he's doing, that would be nice. It's always good to see someone close to your body type and position having success, then trying to emulate what he's doing.''

But Hayward is a small forward with point guard skills. Besides improving his strength in the offseason, Cole wants to improve his ballhandling skills and the ability to create his own shot, rather than waiting for a scoring opportunity from guard Demetri McCamey.

Cole averaged 4.4 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from the 3-point line.

"We all feel he's a good shooter,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "He has to get open looks. How he gets those open looks, that what he needs to work on this summer.''

Cole finished the season close to 200 pounds but would like to start his senior season at closer to 220. Cole, center Mike Tisdale and forward Mike Davis all gained close to 10 pounds already in the offseason while hitting the weights hard, although some of the weight gain likely came from a slower pace in the offseason.

Heading into next season, Cole faces the challenge of playing the same position as Jereme Richmond, the state's Mr. Basketball, who will arrive on campus in June. But after battling injuries for two seasons, Cole felt his career is on the way up.

"Once I got the opportunity from coach, I made the most of it,'' he said. "I can't rest on what happened last year. I have to get better for next season. We didn't even make the tournament.''

SOFTBALL: After completing conference doubleheader sweeps over Indiana and Michigan State, No. 18 Illinois carries a 10-game winning streak into a doubleheader against visiting Iowa on Wednesday. The Illini won 14 of their last 15 games. Illinois (37-5 overall, 10-2 in the Big Ten) is third in the conference standings.

BASEBALL: Sophomore shortstop Josh Parr, a Bartonville Limestone graduate, hit his first college home run, but Illinois fell 7-5 Sunday to Northwestern. Illinois (20-20, 6-9) lost a conference series for the fourth consecutive weekend and slipped to three games out of first in the Big Ten race. Illinois hosts Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Butler on Wednesday before a three-game series at Ohio State on Friday through Sunday.

IN OTHER NEWS: Rock Island guard Chasson Randle, a high school senior next season who is rated at No. 45 nationally among the class of 2011, told Rivals during the AAU basketball tournament in Fort Wayne, Ind., over the weekend that Illinois, Purdue and Stanford stood out in his mind. … Illinois junior Chris DeForest earned the award for low average score in Big Ten golf by averaging 71.54 strokes per 18 holes. Teammate Scott Langley, also a junior, was the league runner-up at 71.59.  

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.