CHAMPAIGN — For Zach Griffith, playing for the Illini has always been a dream come true. Scoring has never been a need for Griffith at the college level, but it is now a part of the dream.
Griffith, a 2017 Fisher High School graduate, has been on the Illini roster for a year and a half now, and he got on the board for the first time on Nov. 20 against The Citadel. Griffith hit a free throw for his first point as an Illini.
His first field goal came a game later against Hampton during the Illini’s 120-71 home victory.
Griffith added two more in the following game in the Illini win against Lindenwood.
Griffith said that scoring for the Illini still doesn’t seem real.
“It felt great coming from a small town. Kids don’t really get a chance to play at a school like Illinois,” Griffith said. “It’s surreal to have my name in the books for Illinois basketball.”
For Griffith the scoring is great, but he knows that as a walk-on his job goes far beyond putting the ball in the basket.
“We understand that we aren’t going to get those minutes,” Griffith said. “We get in there and practice and get our guys prepared for the team we are playing.”
For Griffith, practice may be harder than some of the competition he faces in the games.
“Kofi Cockburn is a huge and a massive guy, they don’t have those guys in the Heart of Illinois Conference. Our guys are really good players, and it’s a privilege to go up against them every day,” Griffith said.
Griffith has fond memories of his experience so far, but there are two that stick out for sure.
“Both of the trips to Maui and Italy were awesome. They were places I have never been and are once in a lifetime trips,” Griffith said. “You can tell how big the Illini fan base is when you get to Maui and all you see is Illini fans. We had more fans out in Maui than Duke did.”
Griffith does not have personal goals for his time left playing with the Illini.
“For me it never revolves around playing. One of our team goals is winning a Big Ten championship, and I think that is doable with this group of guys we have,” Griffith said.
The Illini have seen a turn around in Griffith’s time with the team. Griffith gives credit to head coach Brad Underwood for the type of guys he brings in.
“The type of guys we have are really coming close and Coach Underwood has really done a great job of bringing us together,” Griffith said.
Griffith says he loves the team the Illini has this year.
“I have really grown close to these guys, and the locker room is really
tight knit and we all have each other’s back,” Griffith said.
The Illini will start the Big Ten season on Saturday at No. five Maryland.
You can Contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@RantoulPress.com or on twitter @RyanBirchRP.