Illini forward has much to consider

Illini forward has much to consider

CHAMPAIGN — Michael Finke first injured his knee when he was 15 years old. An MRI during his freshman season at Illinois when he was dealing with some swelling revealed what was already known — there were loose bodies in his knee, but it wasn't hindering him in any way.

Finke will take care of his knee trouble with arthroscopic surgery on Friday.

"His knee started locking up in the United Center game against New Mexico State this year, and he had to battle that the entire season," said Jeff Finke, Michael's dad, during Thursday's 'SportsTalk,' appearance on WDWS 1400-AM. "They just wanted to get him through and get him to where now Dr. (Robert) Gurtler can go in, clean his knee up and get him back on the court hopefully in the next month and be ready to go."

Minor knee surgery might be the start of a busy offseason for the Illinois forward.

Redshirting his true freshman season at Illinois and earning his bachelor's degree this past December means the Champaign native has another season of eligibility to use.

Already holding a degree gives him options. Before any decision is made, though, Finke still has to meet with Illinois coach Brad Underwood.

"When you sign your National Letter of Intent, you get four years," Jeff Finke said. "He's had his four years. At this point in time he's got to be renewed, being real and honest, to have his fifth year. They haven't had that conversation yet."

That conversation with Underwood will also hit on what Finke's role would be in a final season at Illinois. Recruited as a stretch 4 out of Centennial by every program interested, a thin Illini frontcourt this past season changed his role — particularly at the defensive end, where he regularly guarded opposing centers.

Jeff Finke said the physical and mental demands of Underwood's defensive system had his oldest son overthinking at times on the court.

He got out of his head after coming back from the concussion that sidelined him for four games in February and put up 32 points and 10 rebounds in the Illini's final two games.

"Last year, when he had a great year from three, he didn't think," Jeff Finke said. "He just played. This year he thought a lot. We talked during his concussion time, and I think he just went out and played with a lot more freedom mentally, and it showed."

Also playing a role in Finke's decision-making process is the fact Illinois is recruiting several frontcourt players for next season. That includes offers out to junior college forward Austin Trice and 2018 prospects Valid Manuel, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Samba Kane, who was on campus Thursday for an official visit.

While Finke is being rumored as a possible grad transfer, Nevada's Jordan Caroline and Dayton's Jordan Cunningham have been rumored as the same — just in reverse, transferring from elsewhere to Illinois.

"There are a lot of bigs," Jeff Finke said. "I don't know that they're going to carry eight bigs. We'll talk because we've not had a lot of the deep talk yet. What's the roster going to look like? What position is Michael going to play? How's he going to be utilized? He has goals to play basketball post-college."

Jeff Finke did put one persistent rumor to rest Thursday.

He and his wife, Laura, are not moving to Phoenix, the city where Grand Canyon University is.

Michael's younger brother, Tim, will play college basketball at Grand Canyon after signing with the Antelopes last November. Tim just completed a stellar prep career that saw him become Champaign-Urbana's all-time leading scorer during his time at Champaign Central and Centennial.

"Obviously there's a lot of conjecture out there and a lot of rumors and false stuff," he said. "Let me be on record. My wife and I are not moving to Phoenix. Michael has never talked to anybody from Grand Canyon. None of that has ever happened."