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Sports

Girls Basketball: Montini junior Taris Thornton commits to Eastern Illinois

Montini junior Taris Thornton grabs a rebound in front of teammate sophomore Sawyer White during their IHSA Class 3A third-place game win over Lanphier Saturday in Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal.
Montini junior Taris Thornton grabs a rebound in front of teammate sophomore Sawyer White during their IHSA Class 3A third-place game win over Lanphier Saturday in Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal.

Taris Thornton wrote down all the pros and cons of every college on her list as she weighed her options.

Eastern Illinois checked all the right boxes.

"There wasn't really any cons," Thornton said. "I loved everything."

Thus Thornton, Montini's 6-foot junior forward, made her decision Saturday, announcing her commitment to Eastern Illinois.

She joined a program led by head coach Matt Bollant, who just completed his third season. Eastern Illinois went 19-12. In 2018-2019 Bollant, previously the head coach at Illinois, coached Eastern Illinois to the third-biggest win turnaround in program history.

"I saw how good a coach he was, how much he is there for the girls even off the court. That is a big positive," Thornton sad. "He's been coming to all of my games. I love how he supported me through the whole time."

Thornton said she also considered Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. She planned to visit Eastern Illinois and Western Michigan again, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that. And Thornton was sold on Eastern Illinois, anyway.

"I just liked everything about Eastern Illinois, the players and the coach. It fit good," Thornton said.

Thornton, who averaged 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in 35 games leading up to state for a Montini team that took third in Class 3A, said Eastern Illinois' coaches projected her to play either small or power forward at the next level.

"I think she'll be a really good college player," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "The one thing [Eastern Illinois] does is, he runs a lot of stuff and she'll be used to that. He's had success wherever he's gone, and they're going to be good. They're on the upswing. She'll really help them."

Thornton is a player that Nichols said has improved every year, and he expects will have a huge senior year – provided she is able to stay on the court.

Indicative of that potential, Thornton had five points and led Montini with six rebounds in just 12 minutes in the Lady Broncos' state semifinal loss to Simeon.

"She does some freakish things – I want to see more of them," Nichols said. "In the Simeon game she was the one girl who could elevate and jump with them. I need her to be on the court 22-24 minutes a game next year. If she can become a little more disciplined I think she'll help us more than she already does. I have a gut feeling she'll have a huge year next year."

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