Huskie parents support their stars on the big stage


Sean Reed

Kim Goranson sitting in the crowd to support her son, senior guard Kaleb Thornton, during NIU Men’s Basketball’s Mid-American Conference tournament showdown against the Kent State University Golden Flashes on Thursday in Cleveland. Goranson drove from Bolingbrook, IL to see her son on the MAC’s biggest stage. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

By Alex Crowe and Joseph Segreti

DeKALB – The Mid-American Conference basketball tournament in Cleveland brought people from all over the Midwest to watch NIU basketball. 

Friends and family members of players were in attendance to watch their athletes play at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Herilanda Thigpen, a DeKalb resident, NIU women’s basketball alumni and mother of women’s basketball senior forward A’Jah Davis, traveled all the way from DeKalb to watch her daughter on the big stage. 

“I’m originally from Chicago, but I’ve been in DeKalb for 29 years,” Thigpen said. “We came in yesterday (Tuesday). The drive from DeKalb was about six and a half hours.” 

Thigpen witnessed her daughter score a season high 26 points and pull down 12 rebounds. 

Thigpen saw her daughter etch her name in the history books by breaking the all-time double-double record for NIU. 

Even though she got to watch her daughter make history this season, Thigpen was more proud that her daughter is having a great experience. 

“Seeing her happy and out there playing good basketball,” Thigpen said. “Enjoying herself and enjoying the college experience of playing basketball.”

NIU’s reach wasn’t exclusive to DeKalb at the MAC tournament. Versailles, Ohio native Shane Stonebraker, father of NIU women’s basketball junior forward Brooke Stonebraker, drove three and a half hours to watch his athlete under the bright lights. 

“It’s pretty cool,” Stonebraker said. “They don’t get a chance to do that (play at an NBA arena) very often. For them, it’s a nice experience.” 

Dreams of the athletes came true by reaching the MAC tournament and playing in “the house LeBron James built.”

Kim Goranson, mother of men’s basketball senior guard Kaleb Thornton, was proud to see her son achieve his goal.

“It’s something he’s (Thornton) always dreamed about,” Goranson said. “(He’s) been talking about this day for 20 years. So, for him actually being here – win or lose – it’s a great experience.”

Thigpen graduated in 1997 and got to play in conference tournaments. She said seeing her daughter make a conference tournament of her own was a great experience.

“It’s exciting,” Thigpen said. “It’s great to see them make it in the top eight to get down here.”

Stonebraker said seeing his daughter play in the same arena as some of the best athletes in the NBA was a great experience for him and the team.

“They get to travel a little ways to get here,” Stonebraker said, “Playing in a big arena where LeBron James played a long time – I think it’s a good experience.”

NIU women’s and men’s basketball teams were eliminated by Kent State University in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.