Before the college basketball season even began, Jason Gregoire had to deal with a major setback.
A serious bout with mono sent the Cary-Grove graduate to the emergency room and forced him to miss three weeks of classes last semester at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
“I had a pretty serious case,” said Gregoire, a junior guard for the NCAA Division III Titans. “I lost 20 pounds. When I came back, my thought process was first to catch up on school. Secondly, it was to try to get my strength back.”
After missing the first couple of weeks of practice in October, he was determined to patiently work his way back.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Gregoire set a timetable to be at full strength around the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays, which required regaining weight and the bounce in his legs.
“I lost a lot of strength, especially in my legs,” he said. “I couldn’t even touch the rim until probably around Thanksgiving.”
Since December, however, Gregoire has been part of an impressive run for IWU (16-5), which leads the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin standings at 9-3 and is ranked 17th nationally by D3Hoops.com.
“We’re working better as a team,” IWU coach Ron Rose said. “We had so many guys taking on new roles. It’s just come together since Christmas. Guys have settled in.”
Gregoire was inserted into the starting lineup Dec. 29 and has started the past 10 games. Over that span, the Titans are 8-2, including an eight-game winning streak.
“As he got healthier and in better shape, we felt like his size and versatility could be a good fit,” Rose said. “Jason’s got a great skill set.”
Along with shooting 44 percent from 3-point range, Gregoire can handle the ball, guard four different positions and score from the perimeter and by taking smaller guards into the post.
“It’s made us much more difficult to defend,” Rose said of Gregoire, who is averaging 7.9 points and 2.4 rebounds.
Entering the season, Gregoire was unsure what his role would be after playing in only nine games last season.
“I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be a role player or if I was even going to play at all,” Gregoire said. “I never envisioned myself starting. But my approach hasn’t changed. I still want to be the guy who brought a lot of energy to the floor.”
Rose said having Marengo grad Zach Knobloch, a newcomer this season, move to a reserve role has made the offensive attack more dynamic. Knobloch is averaging 8.5 points and has 46 3-pointers, the second most on the team.
“He doesn’t have bad days,” Rose joked. “He’s always energetic. When you put him in off the bench, there’s going to be a boost of energy. He changes the game with his unique ability to shoot the basketball. Whether he’s making five or six 3s in a game or not, you’d better guard him.”
Fanter makes SXU history: Sophomore forward Chanel Fanter (Crystal Lake South) recorded only the fourth triple-double in Saint Xavier women’s basketball history in the team’s 97-68 victory Wednesday against Roosevelt University.
Fanter piled up 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shot for the Cougars (23-2), who are ranked fourth in NAIA Division II. Saint Xavier improved to 17-0 in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference with the victory.
For the season, Fanter is averaging 12.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game.
Harkins, Badgers thrive: Senior Lexi Harkins and the Wisconsin women’s golf team tied for fourth among 16 teams last weekend at the UCF Challenge last weekend in Orlando, Florida.
As an individual, Harkins tied for 21st at 5 over par for the three-round tournament. The Crystal Lake Central grad shot a team-low round of 2-under 70 in Monday’s second round at Eagle Creek Golf Club.
The tournament included seven teams ranked in the top 45 of GolfStat’s national rankings. Wisconsin entered the event at No. 27.
Superb Salukis: Cary-Grove grads Ricky Hurley and Nikki Freeman are among the top throwers this season for the D-I Southern Illinois track and field teams.
Hurley, a junior, has the second-best weight throw in the Missouri Valley Conference this season at 62 feet, 1¾ inches and the third-best shot put at 59-53/4. Freeman, a sophomore, ranks sixth in the MVC in the shot put (46-51/4) and 10th in the weight throw (56-9¼).
Fast pace at Augie: Woodstock North grad Bradley Kohler helped D-III Augustana College’s men’s 4x200-meter relay team post a season-best time last month at Monmouth College’s Midwest Invitational.
Kohler, a freshman, ran the final leg of the relay, which finished in third place in 1:35.45 at Monmouth.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.