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Illinois lands commitment from Charlotte graduate transfer big man Mike Thorne Jr.

Kacinas Thorne

South Carolina’s Mindaugas Kacinas, right, fights for a rebound with Charlotte’s Mike Thorne, left, in the second half at the Charleston Classic NCAA college basketball tournament in Charleston, S.C., Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Charlotte won 65-63. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)


Illinois landed a huge piece to the 2015-16 puzzle on Saturday as a source confirmed to that Charlotte graduate transfer Mike Thorne Jr. is headed to the Big Ten.

The 6-foot-11 Thorne averaged 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for the 49ers last season and is immediately eligible to play next season. Thorne should step in and receive immediate minutes at Illinois with the departure of senior Nnanna Egwu, the team’s former starting center. Thorne also shot 53 percent from the floor and averaged 26.1 minutes per game last season.

Thorne also had strong interest from Kansas, Kentucky and Pitt before choosing to play at Illinois. By landing Thorne, lllinois can pair promising rising sophomore Leron Black with him in the front court and the team also returns a talented rising junior trio in Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. After sitting out the year with a torn ACL, former starting point guard Tracy Abrams will also return next season for Illinois.

Head coach John Groce had plenty of guards and wings in the equation for next season, but adding Thorne means the interior for Illinois got a lot more stable for next season.