Indiana State’s win was a real heart-warmer

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Two clutch free throws helped Indiana State knock off Missouri State in the Missouri Valley title game and send the Sycamores to their first NCAA tournament since 2001.

That Jake Kelly made them was only fitting.

After two seasons at Iowa where he was an honorable mention All-Big Ten player, the Terre Haute native transferred to Indiana State in 2009 because he wanted to be “closer to home” after his mother, Julia, died in a plane crash in June of 2008. He reportedly was having a hard time staying focused on school and on basketball.

“I’ve said it before, there hasn’t been any kid that’s gone through more than Jake Kelly has been,” coach Greg Lansing said afterward. “I’m really, really pleased for him and his entire family. Obviously, things haven’t gone exactly the way he liked it. But he’s going to have a bright future in basketball and he’s going to enjoy this with his teammates.”

Not long after arriving at Indiana State, he tore the ACL in his left knee and missed nearly all of the 2009-10 season. This year, he fought off various injuries and mono before getting his moment on Sunday.

From The Terre Haute Tribune-Star:

“I think I might have cried a little bit when we won,” he said. “I haven’t cried in a while, but I had a lot of emotions running through me.

“It feels great. It’s what I wanted to do when I came here,” Kelly said. “To actually do it? It feels better than you even think and makes all the hard work worth it.”

The MVC Championship T-shirt that Kelly was wearing also will have a special place of honor.

“I’m not an emotional person, but I think about [his mom] a lot. I have to think she’s looking down on me. I do it all for my family,” Kelly said. “I’m putting this shirt on her grave, I’ll say a few words, and I’m sure she’ll be watching us in the tournament.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.