SQUEEZE IT

Illini manager Bobby Gikas brings ‘juice’ from the bench

Joey Wagner, writing for the Illini Inquirer, has a fantastic story on Bobby Gikas, one of the basketball managers for this year’s Fighting Illini Basketball team. The story behind “juice” is the best.

The Illini had a shiny, top-10 ranking and — though Underwood has since heaped praise on Ohio which is 7-5 and No. 122 in KenPom — should have won handily but instead were on upset alert.  The Bobcats were loud and did everything on the bench short of bringing in a strobe light to start the party. Illinois? Not so much. Something had to change.

 

“That was, I think, the most pivotal moment of our season so far because we’re down to Ohio, a team we should be beating, then I look over to our bench and everyone was sad and down and not saying a word,” Gikas said. “I’m like, ‘All right, well, this is not how I want to start my senior year.’”

 

Illinois ended up winning and, in the process, “juice” was born. Underwood had told his team that they’d have to “bring their own juice” this season. Gikas took it to heart.

 

Next up was a game against No. 2 Baylor in Indianapolis and Gikas noticed an extra dry-erase board. He grabbed a hold and simply wrote one word: “Juice.”

 

That board hasn’t gone away, though it can’t be a permanent fixture near the court or it will lose its meaning. It’s intended to create a spark, to quill a big run by the opposing team or to kickstart one of their own.

 

“Reading that word right there makes us play harder and keep going and if you’re on the bench it makes you be louder and bring more energy,” Curbelo said. “That’s definitely a great thing. If I could advise managers on other teams, they should be looking at Bobby because he does a really good job in always taking care of everything so we’re ready to go. By him doing his job and coming to the court for the game and bringing all that energy, I think it’s great. I’m really, really happy I know that guy and I’m really happy he’s our manager.”

Love everything about this.

 

 

 

January 15, 2021 | Fighting Illini