UPDATE: Thorne Jr. ruling 'should be close'

Minor delay pushed back Thorne Jr. ruling, but Illini expect news any day now on senior center's potential sixth year of eligibility

Illinois is expecting news on senior center Mike Thorne Jr.'s status any day now.

"It should be close," said UI associate athletic director Ryan Squire, who runs the compliance department. 

Illinois has been in scholarship limbo since the end of the season as it awaits word on the NCAA's decision on whether Thorne Jr. and Tracy Abrams each will receive medical hardships for sixth years of eligibility.

Squire said that the Illini "feel it's a given" that Abrams, who missed the entire 2014-15 season with a torn ACL and the entire 2015-16 season with a torn Achilles, will receive a second medical hardship waiver.

Thorne, though, is a more complicated case.

To be eligible for a medical redshirt waiver from the NCAA, the student-athlete must suffer an incapacitating (or season-ending) injury, the student-athlete must play in less than 30 percent of that team's games and the injury must occur prior to the second half of  the season.

Thorne, who averaged 12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in eight games since transferring from UNC-Charlotte, met the first two requirements. But he doesn't seem to meet the third.

Thorne, who received a medical redshirt after playing just one game as a freshman at UNC-Charlotte, suffered the injury in the first half of the season, but he returned to play in a game in the second half of the season. Thorne had nine points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes at Indiana in a 103-69 loss at Indiana on Jan. 19.

Illinois has lobbied that the NCAA should make an exception for Thorne, a Type I diabetic who struggles to recover as quickly from injuries due to decreased blood flow. He missed games due to setbacks from an injury suffered during the first half of the season, not a separate injury.

The hardship waiver process, though, is pretty silent. Illinois turned in information to the NCAA on Thorne's case. The NCAA then reviews the case and may ask for clarification or more documentation before making their ruling.

"There's no participation where we get to plead our case," Squire said. "There's no hearing or anything like that. It's pretty mysterious from our end."

Squire told IlliniInquirer.com last month that Illinois hoped to have resolution to the cases by the end of the school year, which wrapped up earlier this month.

So what's taken so long?

"Everything got pushed back later than we wanted to. They (the NCAA) haven't been sitting on it. There were some procedural things (paperwork and filing) we were trying to work out between the Big Ten and the NCAA.

"It should be real close. We'll have it before the start of summer school (June)."

Thorne's return would be a huge boost to an Illini post rotation that finished last in the Big Ten in rebounding last season. The Illini currently are slated to start rising senior Maverick Morgan, who had a surprise rise as a junior, at center with sophomore stretch shooter Michael Finke, who is more comfortable at the 4, likely in the rotation at the 5. 

Leron Black will serve a four-game regular-season game suspension but is the likely starter at the 4 with Malcolm Hill, sophomore D.J. Williams and transfer Kipper Nichols (who will be eligible midseason) will likely rotate at the 4.

The Illini have pursued 2016 point guard Charlie Moore. But with no resolution yet on Thorne, Abrams and two Illini with legal issues (Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate), the Illini currently don't have an open scholarship for Moore.

The Illini hope the NCAA gives them a little bit of clarity as quickly as possible.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories