NIU guard Kaleb Thornton gets national attention


DEKALB, Ill. – A senior guard from Northern Illinois’ men’s basketball team made one of the more unique layups last Tuesday night that has garnered some nationwide attention.

After all, he was holding his shoe in his hand when he got those two points.

Yet if things had gone the way that he wanted them to with just under two minutes to go against Central Michigan at the NIU Convocation Center, Kaleb Thornton wouldn’t have gotten the national notoriety that he has over the past week.

“The play before that, as some people saw, I tried to make a move, didn’t quite get it done, the short-hand layup,” said the Bolingbrook native, who drove into the lane but missed the hoop with 1:47 left to go. “When I drove to the basket, the back of my foot was stepped on.”

In the process, his shoe fell off, so he naturally went to retrieve it as the action went to the other end of the court. As he did, Huskies teammate Darweshi Hunter stole the ball and drove down the court toward him.

“I see we get the steal and I’m in a compromising position, but I don’t want to leave my teammate on and island,” said Thornton, who was holding his shoe when the turnover happened. “So I just stand under the basket like, ‘Maybe he’ll shoot it, maybe I can get a rebound.’”

To Thornton’s surprise, Hunter passed it to him, and the guard caught it with his left hand. He would then put it up off the glass and in, completing one of the more unusual scoring plays of the college basketball season.

“It was just a stereotypical left-handed layup,” said Thornton when describing the moment to WGN News Now.

But it really wasn’t, since the highlight quickly made the rounds on social media and was even featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “Shoe’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me” is how the network billed Thornton’s very unique bucket, bringing plenty of notoriety to the guard over the last week.

“I never thought it would be like this. Since I was a kid I wanted to be on SportsCenter, my entire life I’ve watched it since the age of four, the Top Ten was always one of my favorite things. Me getting on there by making a layup with one shoe, I’ll take it. At the end of the day, any pub is good pub.

“The people that have reached out have all been very nice and I’m very appreciative of it.”

Larry Hawley featured Thornton’s “shoe layup” as his “Random Hawlight” from last week on WGN News Now, which you can see in the video above.

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