CHAMPAIGN — Michael Finke is known for his work ethic.
On the basketball court and in the weightroom.
The number of jump shots the 2013 News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year has hoisted and the number of drills he has gone through is in the thousands. At least.
The reps he has done revolving around his basketball game pale in comparison to what was easily the most important part of his Wednesday: his full signature.
While the 17-year-old Centennial forward, one of at least three recruits who could sign letters of intent this week, hasn’t mastered that art yet, he worked on it leading up to a day 11 months in the making.
“I have a certain signature that I do, but on that thing you have to write ‘Michael Jeffrey Finke,’ ” Finke said Wednesday afternoon inside Aldridge Auditorium at Centennial after a signing ceremony in front of about 200 people. “Actually, I didn’t even know how to do a cursive J, so I had to practice that a little bit before I did it.”
Finke finalized his college destination on the first day of the early signing period after he initially committed to Illinois on Dec. 12, 2012. Fellow Class of 2014 recruit Leron Black from Memphis (Tenn.) White Station is expected to sign Friday. Quentin Snider from Louisville (Ky.) Ballard faxed in his letter of intent Wednesday.
Finke acknowledged everyone from his family to his friends to his girlfriend to Illinois coach John Groce and his assistants, along with his teammates at Centennial and the AAU Peoria Irish in brief remarks he made before he signed.
“I want to thank all of the Illinois staff for taking a chance and believing in me,” Finke said. “It’s a dream come true.”
After his remarks, Finke got straight to the point.
“Let’s sign this,” he said.
He did so on a stage, with his parents, Jeff and Laura, his three younger siblings and both sets of grandparents surrounding him.
Quite a different setup than the one Jeff Finke experienced in 1985 when he signed with Illinois to play basketball.
“The office we were in was about the size of that table,” Jeff Finke said with a laugh while pointing to the table his son signed on, “so not a lot of pomp and circumstance. It’s still of equal importance to go to a Big Ten school and to have an opportunity to compete at the highest of levels collegiately. That hasn’t changed.”
Finke, a 6-foot-9 forward who is up to 2131/2 pounds, Snider, a 6-1, 170-pound point guard, and Black, a 6-7, 215-pound forward, have helped Groce land what is widely regarded as a Top 15 class nationally. The national ranking for the latest recruiting class Illinois has put together could change drastically Friday afternoon. Chicago Curie power forward Cliff Alexander, a five-star recruit who has whittled his list to DePaul, Illinois, Kansas and Memphis, is set to make his decision on ESPNU in a special that starts at 3 p.m. Alexander’s impending decision is on the minds of all Illinois fans. And Finke’s, too.
“We’re going to have a great recruiting class with Leron and Quentin,” Finke said. “We’re looking forward to it, and we’re going to come in and shoot for the national championship. Hopefully we can get someone else on Friday.”