The off-season wasn’t pretty for the Illinois Fighting Illini, and the start of the season hasn’t been so nice either.
Entering the season, the Illini were dealing with injuries to both Kendrick Nunn and Tracy Abrams. Abrams is out for the entire year after suffering his second season-ending injury in as many seasons.
Nunn has returned for Illinois, and Jaylon Tate has also returned after a brief absence due to injury. After a 1-3 start, that included losses to North Florida and Chattanooga, Illinois has gone 2-1 in their last three games and were on the right track. They looked impressive in their win over UAB and their loss to #4 Iowa State.
Optimism was starting to build for Illinois, but they were dealt yet another blow on Monday. This one could be tough to overcome, as Charlotte-transfer Mike Thorne, Jr. could be out for the remainder of the season.
On Monday, Illinois confirmed that Thorne underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Thorne suffered the injury in Saturday’s loss to the Iowa State Cyclones.
His return is up in the air, and there’s a realistic chance that he could miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.
The highly-coveted transfer from Charlotte has been an impact player for the Illini so far this season. The 6’11”, 270-pound big man has averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest over his first five games with his new team. He recorded a double-double against Chattanooga (18 points, 11 rebounds), and was on pace for another impressive showing against the Cyclones before the injury.
In the absence of Thorne, head coach John Groce will rely on Leron Black, Maverick Morgan, and Michael Finke to carry the load in the front court moving forwards.