Big Ten

Nicholas Baer earns scholarship with Hawkeyes


Nicholas Baer earns scholarship with Hawkeyes

After being the most productive member of Iowa's seven-member freshman class last season, Nicholas Baer is now a scholarship player for the Hawkeyes.

The school announced Thursday that the former walk-on has earned a scholarship after a season in which he was an important bench contributor.

"When we invited Nicholas to walk-on two years ago, I had a strong suspicion that this day would come," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said in the announcement. "I didn't give him a scholarship, he earned one, and that's the greatest compliment that you can give to him. He just wanted a chance and felt like he would take it from there, and he did.

"He really worked hard his redshirt year to figure out what he needed to do to be successful at this level. Nicholas was a terrific player for us in a lot of different ways this past season. He impacts the game with his energy, basketball instincts, shooting, rebounding, defense, and he doesn't make mistakes. He's everything you want on the floor, especially with the way we play. I'm excited about having him in our program for the next three years."

Baer's averages of 4.8 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game might not jump off the stat sheet, but he was one of just six players on the team to appear in all 33 games (four of the other five were seniors), he ranked seventh on the team in minutes per game (five of the six players ahead of him were starters) and he ranked second on the team with 19 blocks.

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Baer scored in double figures five times this season, including an 11-point performance against then-No. 1 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener and a 15-point effort in Iowa's final game of the season, an NCAA tournament loss to eventual national champion Villanova.

"I am so thankful that coach McCaffery gave me the opportunity to walk-on. He gave me a jersey, gave me a chance to prove myself," Baer said in the announcement. "It has always been a goal of mine to achieve a scholarship and I'm thankful that I have achieved that goal, but more so I'm thankful for all of my teammates who have pushed me to make me a better player and the support I've received from Hawkeye fans."

Baer figures to have an expanded role next season. Four of Iowa's five starters were seniors this season and are moving on from their college careers, and junior starter Peter Jok is testing the NBA Draft process, though his return to Iowa City is certainly still possible. Regardless, it will be a different-looking group of Hawkeyes in 2016-17.

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.