Big Ten

Illini reinstate Leron Black, announce six-game suspension for start of next season

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Illini reinstate Leron Black, announce six-game suspension for start of next season

Leron Black’s indefinite suspension is over, but he will miss the first four games of the 2016-17 season.

The Illinois sophomore forward was reinstated from his indefinite suspension, the team announced Friday, with head coach John Groce suspending Black for the first six games of the upcoming season — two exhibition games and four regular-season games — following his pulling a knife on a nightclub bouncer in February.

“Leron used extremely poor judgment on the night of Feb. 18,” Groce said in the release. “He has taken responsibility for his actions, showing remorse and growing as a person from this situation. He will now begin the process of earning his way back to full status with the team, participating in offseason skill, strength and conditioning workouts. The decision to suspend him is firm but fair. The expectation moving forward is that he makes championship choices daily.”

Black’s arrest kicked off a string of legal situations for Illini players. In March, junior guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate were charged with domestic battery in separate incidents.

While the legal process has yet to fully play out for Nunn and Tate, who both remain indefinitely suspended, Black pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor version of the original charge and entered a second-chance program, completing 20 hours of public service and paying a $200 fine in addition to receiving a sentence of 12 months of conditional discharge. Those details from the Champaign News-Gazette.

“I regret my actions and am sorry to those I have hurt,” Black said in the announcement. “I knew right away that I had made a serious mistake, and I apologize to my family for the disruption and embarrassment this has caused them and for the negative light that has been cast upon our basketball program. This has been a very difficult time in my life because of the pain that comes from knowing I let so many people down. I have learned a lot about myself in the months that have passed, and one positive to draw from this is I know I stand here today a better person. I am committed to regaining the trust of everyone, including my teammates, coaches and Illini fans.”

Following a promising freshman campaign, Black was slated to start in the Illinois front court as a sophomore, but he missed almost the entirety of last season recovering from preseason knee surgery. He appeared in just seven games last season, scoring a total of 31 points.

Black’s Friday-night reinstatement solves one of several ongoing offseason mysteries for the Illini, though the team’s roster situation for next season remains hazy. In addition to waiting on the outcomes of the legal situations of Nunn and Tate, Illinois is waiting to see if Mike Thorne Jr. will receive another season of NCAA eligibility after appearing in only eight games last season. Plus, the Illini are one of the final options for Class of 2016 point guard Charlie Moore, the state’s Mr. Basketball who decommitted from Memphis last month.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.