Big Ten

Illini's Mike Thorne granted sixth year of eligibility, will be back next season

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Illini's Mike Thorne granted sixth year of eligibility, will be back next season

Illinois center Mike Thorne Jr. will be back for a sixth year.

The Illini announced Wednesday that Thorne, who played in only eight games last season after transferring in from Charlotte, received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and will suit up in orange and blue for the 2016-17 campaign.

"We are thrilled for Mike," Illinois head coach John Groce said in the announcement. "He endured a lot of adversity last season, suffering the knee injury after a great start and then having lingering complications that prevented him from being able to return to the court. Now he will get that chance to come back for a sixth year and finish his college career in the way we all envision. The NCAA deserves a ton of credit in this situation, as they have made a decision that is without question in the best interest of the student-athlete."

Thorne was supposed to play a major role on last season's Illini team, which entered the season with little front-court depth and then saw both Thorne and forward Leron Black miss the majority of the season with injuries.

He ended up appearing in just those eight games: the season's first seven and one game against Indiana in January. Thorne averaged 12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in his limited action.

That lone appearance during Big Ten play was the major question mark when it came to whether Thorne would receive a sixth year, as the NCAA often requires a player not play during the second half of a season if he is going to earn a medical hardship waiver. But in Thorne's case, the NCAA awarded him the waiver anyway.

Thorn's return is a big deal for the Illini, as he showed quite a bit of promise, twice recording double-doubles in the early going last season and scoring a combined 46 points in the season's first two games. Given how much Illinois struggled in the front court and rebounding the basketball last season, having a 6-foot-11 veteran back in the fold is nothing but good news.

Thorne's up-in-the-air status since the season ended in March was one of multiple roster mysteries for the Illini, a couple of which still remain unresolved. Black was suspended for the first four regular-season games of the upcoming season after he pleaded guilty following his arrest for pulling a knife on a nightclub bouncer in February. Guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate remain indefinitely suspended following their unrelated March arrests for domestic battery, though an update on Nunn could be forthcoming after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery on Wednesday.

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.