A point of emphasis for Illinois coach John Groce when he took the job a little over eight months ago was "finding players who really want to be an Illini" when it comes to recruiting.
So how about securing a commitment from a kid who was born and raised in Fighting Illini colors, his father played both basketball and football at the school and he currently plays his high school basketball in Champaign?
Champaign Centennial's rising junior, Michael Finke, committed to Illinois on Wednesday while on an unofficial visit. The 6-8 forward has been arguably the fastest rising player in the state over the past six months. He chose Illinois over Wisconsin, Purdue, Kansas State and a growing list of high-major suitors.
Finke, who is currently among the top half dozen prospects in the Hoops Report's loaded Class of 2014 player rankings, becomes the first Class of 2014 recruit for Groce and Illinois. He fills a need and is an ideal fit as a face-up 4-man who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability.
In addition, Finke's high skill level includes being an exceptional passer. Finke must be accounted for on the perimeter with his shooting range, but he's also capable of making teammates better with his vision and passing skills. He will continue to fill out and, as he gets physically stronger over time, will become a bigger threat around the basket.
Finke's rise has been meteoric when you consider where he was as a player 12 months ago. He was outside the Hoops Report's Top 30 prospects heading into his sophomore year and was barely on the radar of college coaches. He's grown a couple of inches and added consistency to his perimeter jumper.
But what really makes Finke so enticing is he still has room to grow physically and as a player. He's just now starting to tap into what he can become.
Finke's dad, Jeff Finke, is one of the greatest prep athletes in state history. He starred in football, basketball and baseball at Casey, Ill., a town that's halfway between Terre Haute, Ind. and Effingham. He played basketball at Illinois before changing gears and going the football route.
Now Michael Finke will have a chance to live his childhood dream and follow in the footsteps of his father. And for Groce and his staff, they land a player who truly wants to be an Illini.
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