Illinois’ Thorne getting sixth year

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Illinois forward Mike Thorne, Jr. was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, it was announced Wednesday.

Thorne’s case was an interesting one because he initially injured himself Nov. 29, tearing a meniscus in his knee, and if he had missed the rest of the season, he would have likely been a slam-dunk to receive a medical hardship waiver. However, The 6-foot-11 Thorne returned to the court on Jan. 19, playing 16 minutes in a loss to Indiana, which many thought might disqualify him from gaining the extra year. He did not appear in a game the rest of the season.

In the end, though, the NCAA is allowing Thorne to return for one final season.

“We are thrilled for Mike,” Illinois coach John Groce said in a statement released by the school. “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.”

The Illini went 15-19 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten last year. Thorne averaged 12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game before his injury.