USA Today // Marvin Gentry

Report: La Tech transfer has Illini interest

Louisiana Tech forward reportedly has interest in Illinois, among other programs

Louisiana Tech graduate transfer Merrill Holden has interest in Illinois, according to a report from ESPN's Jeff Goodman

The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Chicago native averaged 8.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 blockes as a junior. He shot 51.6 percent from the field  (2-for-9 from three) and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line. Holden will be eligible to play immediately due to the NCAA graduate transfer rule. Holden played one season at Pratt Community College in Kansas before transferring to Louisiana Tech.

Another report suggests the Illini have interest in Virginia Tech graduate transfer guard Jalen Hudson, who averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds last season as a sophomore. The Hokies guard, who shot 40.1 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three, would have to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules and would have two years of eligibility remaining.

Illinois is waiting word on the NCAA on its waiver for a sixth year of eligibility for Mike Thorne. Due to a torn meniscus suffered in November, the senior played just eight games last season, which is under the NCAA's 30 percent requirement for a medical hardship waiver. But Thorne returned to play one game in the second half of the season, which goes against the rule's requirements, before missing the rest of the season due to a setback from the injury. Illinois hopes that the NCAA makes a special exception for Thorne, who suffers from diabetes.

If Thorne's application for a medical hardship waiver is denied, Illinois has a big need in the post. Maverick Morgan returns after a breakout junior season and Michael Finke will try to improve on an up-and-down freshman season.

The Illini also have three players currently on indefinite suspension following arrests for alleged violent crimes: Leron BlackKendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. Their futures at Illinois at least seem in question. Tate and Nunn have pretrial hearings next week for separate charges of domestic battery. Black is expected to plead down from a charge of felony aggravated assault to a misdemeanor.

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