Vandalia grad Eric Hobbie has been waiting for this moment for months.
On Thursday, it will finally happen. After missing two months of games, Hobbie will once again be on the court for McKendree University.
"I am very happy to be back," said the Bearcat senior. "There were several players that had an opportunity to play because I was injured. That may actually help us in the long run. The leg is not 100 percent, but it is getting better all the time."
It could not have come any sooner for the Bearcats, who are 6-9 overall. They will play their first of 14 consecutive American Midwest Conference games on Thursday. They will be tipping off against William Woods University in Fulton, Mo, at 7:30 p.m.
"Our goal is to win the conference title and then the conference tournament," Hobbie said. "If we want to play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Nationals, we have to win the conference tournament. I think at this point, we are strong and healthy."
When Hobbie was injured he was averaging 21.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. In addition, he also had six assists and four blocked shots in the first three games. Hobbie had hit 19-of-44 field goals and 17-of-18 free throws. He has struck from beyond the 3-point arc nine times this season.
"When Eric returns, we want everyone to slip back into their roles," said Harry Statham, McKendree's longtime coach. "He is a smart player, and it will be great to get him back. We missed his leadership on the floor. We will try to get him some rest in the first few games."
Hobbie surpassed 1,500 points last season and currently has 1,589 as he returns to the line-up. The Bearcats have lost some close games during his 12-game absence. Of their nine losses this year, six have been by 10 points or fewer. They have lost three games by two points or less and one game by a mere point. They also lost one four point contest.
"We were used to playing with Eric in the lineup," said Sean Rakers, one of Hobbie's teammates. "We would have missed any one of our starters. The chemistry with him in the lineup was very familiar. When he left, we all had to do a little more."
Greenville College's Laura Hobbie, a Vandalia grad, started and played 29 minutes as the GC Panthers lost an 80-57 battle against Spalding College to start the year. She finished the contest with four points, four rebounds and four assists. Fellow Greenville player Ann Githinji, a South Central grad, played two minutes in the contest, but did not have any stats. With the loss, Greenville dropped to 6-3 overall. They are 1-1 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Illinois College men's basketball team split their games at the Bill Merris Tournament, which was held at IC. The Blueboys defeated Clarke University (85-71), but lost to St. Mary's University (61-60). In the loss to St. Mary's, IC sophomore player and South Central grad Isaac Grapperhaus, who played 18 minutes, finished with three points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. In the win, he had two points and three rebounds. He started and played 15 minutes. IC is 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the Midwest Conference.
Names, names, names. We are looking for athletes to write about during the upcoming months. If anyone has a name to add, please e-mail me (Dan62801@aol.com). I will need the name of the athlete, the former high school, the college/university they are attending and of course the sport they are playing. Please put "Vandalia Leader Union" in the subject line.
There are only two rules to be included in this column. The athlete must be a graduate of one of the high schools or be a resident of one of the towns normally covered by the Vandalia Leader-Union. Secondly, they must be an intercollegiate athlete, meaning their chosen school competes against other schools.