Mike Thorne Jr.

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.

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

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Illinois landed a huge piece to the 2015-16 puzzle on Saturday as a source confirmed to NBCSports.com 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.