More on Finke's commitment
The original thought process didn't have a mid-December commitment in mind.
But when Champaign Centennial junior big man Michael Finke and his family visited the Illinois campus on Wednesday, that's what happened.
"When we sat down as a family, quite honestly, we didn't have an exact date," said Jeff Finke, Michael's father and former Illinois basketball and football player. "The general timeline was to go through the high school season and get into the spring. The last two weekends in April are always NCAA-certified weekends for AAU (basketball). The general plan was either make a decision at one of those two or not until May."
Jeff Finke committed to Illinois in January of his junior year at Casey-Westfield High School after Lou Henson watched him play in December before offering him a scholarship a few weeks later.
"I didn't take any other visits for football or basketball," Jeff Finke said. "When (Michael's) recruiting process started, regardless of who offered, we wanted to really have him take a look at multiple schools. We visited many schools multiple times — Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois, and a few mid-majors — and he just felt right about it (on Wednesday)."
Plans, however, don't always come to fruition. Michael Finke's recruitment is a case study in that.
"Last year at this time," the younger Finke said, "I had no schools interested in me."
South Dakota State first offered him a scholarship last April, with offers from Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Iowa coming in July. The first contact Illinois had with Finke was Illinois assistant coach Jamall Walker called Jeff Finke in early August.
"It's a combination of a little bit of exposure, a lot of hard work, and the bottom line is the world has shrunk," ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "Good news travels fast. When you get a 6-10 guy who thinks the game and has legitimate skill, South Dakota State knew they had a window of about a week. What it says is it can happen at anytime."
City/Suburban Hoops publisher Joe Henricksen called Finke's recruitment a "meteoric rise."
"He has gone from basically completely off the radar 12 months ago to legitimate high-major," Henricksen said. "He's not a reach at all at this point. He made up a lot of ground in a short period of time. What's so exciting about him is that he has so much more room to grow physically and as a player. He's just barely started to tap into his potential."
Henricksen said he likes the various facets Finke (6 feet, 9 1/2 inches, 193 pounds) brings with him to the court. Playing for Centennial's program, which has had Rayvonte Rice (Drake/Illinois), Jeff Johnson (Eastern Kentucky), Josh Piper (Eastern Illinois), James Kinney (Ohio/San Jose State) and Trent Meacham (Dayton/Illinois), among others, come through its ranks in the last decade, should prepare Finke well for Illinois.
"What's nice for (Illinois) is it's a natural fit and a position of need in terms of a guy of size who can spread the floor for them and knock down shots," Henricksen said. "He's a skilled four man. He can pass it and shoot it. His body is really going to fill out, and that's going to lend himself to be a better and more productive player down the road than he is probably right now."
Finke's commitment might signal an end to to Illinois' Class of 2014, with no more scholarships available unless current underclassmen on Illinois' roster leave by that point.
But Illinois should have at least six scholarships available for the Class of 2015.
With Finke giving an early verbal to Illinois, it should give Illinois coach John Groce and his staff a head start on current high school sophomores.
"As a program, when you're locked into a player and really committed to that guy, to lock him up early takes the pressure off and allows you to work on other (recruits)," Henricksen said. "It shows you down the road what you have so you can fit other pieces around it."
Finke's commitment might indicate Illinois is out of the running for some of the state's top prospects in the Class of 2014, chief among them Jahlil Okafor of Chicago Whitney Young and Cliff Alexander of Chicago Curie High School.
Both those Chicago post players are ranked in the top five nationally, according to various recruiting services.
"John Groce has stated many times in conversations I've had with him is he's vying for guys who want to play at Illinois and bleed Illinois," Henricksen said. "That's the first priority. You want a McDonald's All-American and a top 20 or 25 player, but those are recruiting battles usually not won overnight. John Groce is just getting to make headway with those types of players, and he's been on the job eight months. I don't think there's anything wrong with grabbing a player who's going to be a four-year guy. At the end of the day, does Michael Finke make them and their program better? Yes, and at this point, that's what you need."