Big Ten

More injury woes for Illini as Leron Black has meniscus tear


More injury woes for Illini as Leron Black has meniscus tear

CHAMPAIGN — The Illini’s offseason of injuries continues.

After a season-ending injury to senior point guard Tracy Abrams and an injury that’s sidelined top freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands, head coach John Groce announced Thursday that sophomore forward Leron Black tore his meniscus will miss the next four to six weeks recovering from surgery.

Groce said that Black is slated for surgery Friday.

“He has a meniscus tear,” Groce said. “He is one tough cookie. He’s probably had it for a while, to be honest. A lot of guys might not be able to have that type of pain threshold or tolerance, but he’s a pretty tough dude. So fortunately for us, it’ll be a pretty quick deal. And Leron’s one of those guys that’s very thorough in everything that he does. He’ll have a sense of urgency, he’ll do the right things, he’ll listen to our team doctors, he’ll listen to the trainer. We’re looking forward to his comeback.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini's Jalen Coleman-Lands 'progressing back to basketball activities']

It’s another big blow for the Illini, who are already dealing with the loss of Abrams and the recovery of Coleman-Lands. Black, expected to be a big contributor in 2015-16, started 10 games and averaged 14.8 minutes in 33 games last season. He averaged five points and 4.3 rebounds a game during his freshman season.

Initially, Groce said a four-to-six-week range for Black’s recovery, but he doesn’t have an exact date when Black will return.

“When it comes to stuff like that, to be honest with you, each guy’s different,” Groce said. “You do it long enough, you see meniscus a lot. You’ve seen guys come back, I think we even had a football player here come back pretty quickly. Other guys have had stuff that have come back quickly. I think a lot of it depends on a guy’s body. It’s just his body, each guy’s different. We’re going to do the right thing for Leron and JCL and whoever’s injured. We’re going to listen to their body. And we’re going to trust our doctors and trust our trainer, and when they tell us they’re back, they’ll be back.

“Obviously we have a plan in place, but a lot of times you have to be able to adapt with that plan because you’re dealing with the human body. It’s not a rote date or number of days or weeks, necessarily. Typically, what happens with meniscuses is four to six weeks. I’ve seen some guys come back faster, I’ve seen some guys take four, five, six. But you’ve got to feel like it’s probably somewhere in that range.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Spartans lose Marvin Clark for six to eight weeks]

If Black does miss games during the regular season — which begins Nov. 13 against North Florida — the Illini will have to lean heavily on the other big guys on the roster, of which there are not many. Graduate transfer Mike Thorne is expected to be the team’s starting center. Redshirt freshman Michael Finke and sophomore Cameron Liss are the only other players listed as forwards besides Black, and junior Maverick Morgan is listed as a center.

So Illinois might be forced to play small at times, utilizing four-guard lineups.

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


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


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.