UPDATE: Finke, Lucas transferring from Illinois

UPDATE: Finke, Lucas transferring from Illinois

CHAMPAIGN — Michael Finke grew up an Illinois fan.

“Everyone in the YMCA leagues around here wanted to wear high socks and the headband just to be like Dee Brown,” Finke told The News-Gazete in 2014. “When I was little, I didn’t think there would be any other place I could go besides Illinois. Once I started getting recruited, it expanded my thoughts, but I have all these memories about Illinois.”

Those memories included spending the last three seasons playing for his hometown Illini.

But the Champaign native and Centennial graduate announced on Monday afternoon, via a note posted on his Twitter account, that he is leaving the Illinois program, a program he committed to in December 2012 when John Groce coached the Illini and a program he played his last game for under Brad Underwood on Feb. 28 during a 96-87 loss to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

Later on Monday afternoon, point guard Te’Jon Lucas also announced he would leave the Illini after two seasons, marking four player departures this month for Illinois and four open scholarships Underwood has at the moment.

“Competing for the Fighting Illini and earning a degree from Illinois was always a dream of mine growing up in Champaign,” Finke wrote. “Being able to accomplish both of those goals has been a great honor. I want to thank Coach Groce and his staff for recruiting me and coaching me my first three years. I would also like to thank Coach Underwood and his staff for coaching me this past year. I have grown and learned a lot over the past four years.”

Jeff Finke, Michael’s father, told The News-Gazette on Monday afternoon that his oldest son made the decision he felt was best.

“It’s something we’ve talked about for at least a couple weeks,” Jeff Finke said. “Until it got to this point, we didn’t want to put the cart before the horse. He wanted to gather all the information and experiences from the past 12 months before making his decision. He had four years at his dream school and four great years. He wanted to take his time, and now we’re sitting down and going through the process of it.”

Lucas, a Milwaukee native, posted a short note on his Twitter account late Monday afternoon declaring his intentions to leave Illinois.

“I want to start off by saying thank you to the University of Illinois for giving me the opportunity to play basketball for the Illini, which has been an honor,” Lucas wrote. “However, after sitting down with my family and support team, I have decided to re-open my recruitment and transfer from the University of Illinois. I want to thank both Coach Groce and Coach Underwood ... and I wish nothing but the best in the future for the staff and players.”

Lucas averaged 5.7 points this past season, a season where he missed three games because of a suspension for violating team rules, and handed out a team-best 3.2 assists.

Lucas, who started 34 games at Illinois, will have to sit out next season, but will have two seasons of eligibility left once he picks a new school.

Michael Finke added in his note on Twitter that he met with Underwood and his staff multiple times in the past few weeks since the season ended.

“We’ve decided that I will seek a new school where I can earn a Masters degree and compete for my final year of college eligibility and Illinois will not renew my scholarship,” Michael Finke wrote. “I will forever be an Illini at heart.”

Michael Finke told The News-Gazette on Monday that switching coaches late in his career after Illinois fired Groce in March 2017 was tough. At first.

“But Coach Underwood greeted us and welcomed us into his program with open arms,” Finke said. “He’s a great coach and will have a lot of success here. Illinois is moving in the right direction with Coach Underwood in charge.”

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Finke averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds this past season at Illinois, starting 25 games.

The forward played through a knee ailment all season before getting arthroscopic surgery on it once the season ended, and he missed four games with a concussion he sustained in practice in February.

“Michael was a valuable member of our team, and he is a proud U of I graduate,” Underwood said Monday evening in a statement to The News-Gazette. “We wish him continued success with the next chapter of his career as a graduate transfer.”

Finke didn’t indicate where he might transfer and neither did his father, along with a possible timeline on when Michael might decide on a new school to play his final season of college basketball.

“I’m open to whoever reaches out to me right now,” Michael Finke said. “I want to go to a place that has the right system for me and a chance to win and hopefully make the NCAA tournament.”

Illinois hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2013, a streak of five seasons without a spot in the 68-team field.

One of Michael’s younger brothers, Nick, just finished his freshman season at Army and his youngest brother, Tim, signed with Grand Canyon this past November.

Tim Finke was named The News-Gazette’s All-Area Player of the Year on Sunday after he averaged 21 points and 9.2 rebounds this past season at Central.

Michael Finke arrived at Illinois in 2014 after a standout prep career at Centennial saw him win two N-G All-Area Player of the Year honors while leading Centennial to the Sweet 16 in Class 3A his senior season.

He redshirted his first season at Illinois, but played in 93 games during the subsequent three seasons, making 49 starts, and finished with 741 career points to go along with 386 rebounds.

Monday’s departure of Finke and Lucas means more roster reshuffling will take place this offseason for Underwood and his staff.

Guard Mark Smith, The News-Gazette’s 2017 All-State Player of the Year, was granted a release from his scholarship after only one season on March 5 and forward Leron Black, who led Illinois last season in scoring and rebounding, announced on March 15 he would forgo his final season of eligibility to pursue a pro career.

Michael Finke said Black’s decision to leave didn’t have an effect on his choice.

“Leron had to do what was best for him,” Finke said. “I know he will do great things in his pro career, and I can’t wait to see where he lands.”

Deciding to leave Illinois wasn’t an easy one for Michael, according to his father.

“When he was 16 years old and making that decision to come to Illinois, it was a pretty emotional one,” Jeff Finke said. “Now, he’s a young man. He’s 21, almost 22. He can process through all the information he has and do what’s best for Michael now.”

Michael echoed those sentiments.

“It was definitely the hardest decision of my life,” he said. “After a lot of prayer and conversations, though, I felt like this was the best move for me to grow, not only as a player, but as a person. Being able to play here these past four years have been a dream come true. I hope fans truly know how much this university really means to me and that I will always be an Illini at heart.”

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uhs1980 wrote on March 26, 2018 at 3:03 pm

good bye good riddance, to slow for the Illini under Underwood, hopefully Grand Canyon will be happy with you and your brother and dad.

OrlandoIllini wrote on March 26, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Why act like such a jerk toward a fine young man who has worked hard for the Illini? Is this another of Moonpie's fake names?

Moonpie wrote on March 26, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Orlando, do you also see black helicopters as part of your delusion that I use fake names?

I pat Finke on the back for dumping this dumpster fire program.

Has Tate called Finke a traitor yet?

OrlandoIllini wrote on March 26, 2018 at 4:03 pm

No delusion about your multiple monikers. They are real. You are fake.

uhs1980 wrote on March 26, 2018 at 6:03 pm

he's a waste of space on the BB court! And if he is anything like his old man with his ethics and morals he's using valuable air that someone else needs!

beekay wrote on March 26, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Agreed.  Ridiculous to hold his deficiencies against him as if he tried to harm us.  He worked his tail off and gave us whatever he could.  Can't fault the kid for that.

Bwp 5P wrote on March 26, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Kid worked hard....no reason to rag on him!! He had some really nice games for The Illini!

Hope he lands somewhere and has a Great season!

Tyler2cent wrote on March 26, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Dn't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya, Finke.  Finke boys aren't near as good as they think they are.  Can't compete at the college level.  All the early season talk of Finke being a leader, what a joke.  The way to be a leader is put the ball thru the hoop like Frasier does.  


PortlandIllini wrote on March 26, 2018 at 7:03 pm

This is a gold mine for negative recruiting .   Frankly, my jaw dropped when I read this headline.

jjohnson wrote on March 26, 2018 at 6:03 pm

What is it with the idiots who post pseudonymous comments blasting young men who have more talent in their pinkies than these have brains in their skulls. Cowards, bullies, jerks. Come after me you gutless wonders -- if you can handle an old fart who can probably pound the you-know-what out of you.

John Johnson


illinifaningeorgia wrote on March 26, 2018 at 8:03 pm

"....and Illinois will not renew my scholarship", Finke said.

That says it all.  Typical of what happens in these cases--you get a scholly for 4 years and then become a Graduate Transfer somewhere else.  Nothing new here and certainly no need to badmouth the kid.


Ron Van Horn wrote on March 26, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Hate to see these young men leave the basketball program. I am sure they are doing what they believe is best for their future plans. I say to each, good luck and thank you. I live in southern Illinois, read the Belleville News Democrat on occasion and I have great concern how these departures will play in the recruitment of E.J. Liddell and others in the St. Louis metro area. Cuonzo Martin has told area papers he believes the recruitment of Liddell is the key to locking up the area for Missouri basketball. I hope he is wrong, but it is a growing concern. Illinois also needs to expand their radio outlets in southern Illinois.

Ron Van Horn wrote on March 26, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Forgot to mention in my earlier post: Missouri offered Mark Smith a scholarship, one more link for Cuonzo Martin to build on in his quest to capture the metro area for Missouri basketball.

JamBam wrote on March 27, 2018 at 12:03 am

Next year's Illinois team will be the worst of all time.  I'll be surprised if Trent Frazier sticks around for this trainwreck.  

Josh Whitman, the clock is ticking on your tenure.  This time next year, your butt might just be in the unemployment line.

Moonpie wrote on March 27, 2018 at 9:03 am

Orlando--your denial of reaity makes me think you are none other than Donald Trump. Having a Stormy day?