Michael Finke diary: 'I wanted to be an Illini!'

As his junior season unfolds, Centennial’s Michael Finke will take us behind the scenes with a monthly recruiting diary. Today, he reflects on December’s decision to commit to Illinois, where his father played basketball and football. Entry No. 5:

The time just felt right. About a month ago I decided to commit to the University of Illinois. Many people have asked me why I have decided to commit so early in my junior year. This is my story.

Going into my junior season for Centennial I had many options of schools to choose from; four of these offers coming from the Big Ten and several other schools showing interest from high major programs. My family and I were constantly talking about the right school for me. We took many visits to the schools that I was considering. Our goal was to get to know the coaches from each school, the player development piece for me as a player, and watch the games as the season came around to see how I would fit in their system. I developed a relationship with the coaches of these other programs, which made it an even tougher decision. In the end though, I felt that Illinois met the criteria in every category.   

Before I committed, my dad kept asking me if I could see myself playing for any other school in the country. My answer was no. Illinois is the right fit for me. There wasn’t one school in the country that I would rather go to other than Illinois. Many people thought that I would end up at Illinois because my dad went there. Honestly, that wasn’t the case at all. My dad never pushed me to go anywhere. He wanted me to go to the best school for me, the school that would meet the criteria I was looking for. He and the rest of my family were going to be happy wherever I landed. Now that I’ve picked Illinois it’s a blessing to be able to continue the Illini legacy that my dad started. I can’t wait to be in Orange and Blue!

It was a special day when I committed. I hadn’t met with the academic adviser yet, so my parents and I scheduled a visit to meet with the academics and to tour a couple of places I hadn’t seen yet. After we met with the academics, Coach Groce drove us around to tour a few places and then we met up with the other coaches at Assembly Hall. We talked about a lot of things, but one thing that really stuck with me is how he told me I have a unique opportunity to be part of the Illini. What he said was that when I put on that jersey I will be able to give back to the community that has given me so much.

I have been an Illini fan since I was a little boy. To have the chance to be a student-athlete at a great university like Illinois is amazing. It is a huge honor. He said again that they wanted me and that I would fit in their system well. I told him that I wanted to be an Illini! There were cheers everywhere. We were all hugging and I even saw my mom shed some tears! It was an experience I will never forget.

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