Finke still starring at Centennial

Finke still starring at Centennial

Boston University forward Dom Morris attempted a hurried layup on the right block.

Nnanna Egwu went up to grab the rebound of the errant shot he contested.

A time zone away, Michael Finke leaned forward on the leather couch inside his family's house in southwest Champaign a little past 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Illinois signee has visions of playing postseason basketball this time next March for John Groce's program.

One of the items on his bucket list, when pressed for a few, is to play in the Final Four and win a national title for his hometown school.

"Grab it," Finke said in his steady voice, but in a way that carried a bit more force than in his typical laid-back demeanor.

Egwu, Finke's future teammate, obliged the request, helping Illinois head back home with a hard-fought 66-62 victory against the Terriers in the first round of the NIT.

Finke knows work still needs to take place in his game for him to play meaningful minutes next season for the Illini.

The 6-foot-9 forward wants to get stronger.

He's currently at 217 pounds, but ideally wants to gain another 10-15 pounds before he goes through his practice at Illinois this fall.

He wants to improve his ball-handling. Develop some more agility.

"Everything about my game can get better," Finke said. "I want to improve on all of it."

But Finke had quite the senior season at Centennial.

One many high school players would crave for.

He narrowly missed averaging a double-double by scoring 19.6 points and grabbing 9.3 rebounds.

Centennial wound up with a 24-5 record, won the Big 12 Conference regular season championship with a 15-1 league record and rattled off a 15-game win streak after Christmas.

The five losses the Chargers sustained weren't to any slouches. Two came against Champaign Central — by a combined six points — and the Maroons advanced to a Class 3A sectional championship game.

Lincoln is playing Friday in the state semifinals in 3A, Chicago Bogan won a 3A sectional title and North Chicago also won a 3A sectional title.

All told, the four schools who beat Centennial have put together a 104-24 record.

"Each year I've been getting better, and this year was by far my best year," Finke said. "I still hope to have better years to come, but I feel I've been playing well."

And he's not done shining under the lights at Centennial.

Finke is portraying Joe Hardy, the lead role in "Damn Yankees."

That's the spring musical Centennial is putting on in early April at Centennial's Aldridge Auditorium.

Much like any opposing big man trying to make a name for himself or an opposing student section trying to get in his head this past winter, Finke is eager to prove himself on another stage.

It's the second musical he's found himself a cast member of during his time at Centennial after he was part of the production of "Grease," his freshman year.

He was part of the ensemble back then, however, instead of the starring role he has now.

"I play in front of a lot of people in basketball," Finke said, "but on the stage it's a different feeling. I like to perform in front of people."

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