3-time All-Area first-teamer transferring to Central

3-time All-Area first-teamer transferring to Central

CHAMPAIGN — One of Champaign’s top high school boys’ basketball players the last three years is transferring. But Doug Wallen will remain in Champaign, although the forward won’t star for St. Thomas More like he’s done since 2013.

The 6-foot-4 Wallen said Monday afternoon he will play his senior season at Champaign Central after earning News-Gazette first-team All-Area accolades the last three seasons with the Sabers, with whom he scored 1,501 career points.

“I want to play basketball in college,” Wallen said. “I just think this move will help me increase my chances to get noticed more.”

Wallen does not have any offers from colleges at the moment, but said he is receiving some interest from Western Illinois and Belmont. Central had college coaches from 19 Division I programs visit Combes Gym last season for practices, mainly to see Class of 2018 prospect Tim Finke.

Finke, the son of Central coach Jeff Finke, holds offers from Creighton, DePaul, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Ohio State.

“I’ve played with Tim before and I’ve known their family my whole life,” Wallen said. “This is my last year of high school. I want to put myself in the best position I can with my recruitment, and going here will definitely help my chances.”

The Maroons finished 17-11 last season and won a Class 3A regional title under Jeff Finke, who was in his first season in charge of Central.

Tim Finke averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 rebounds during his sophomore season at Central, and Wallen is looking forward to teaming up with the dynamic guard next winter.

“It will definitely help me because a player like him, and the others that are on the Central team, they can get everyone involved,” Wallen said. “With Tim, it’s not just his scoring ability that is so good. He makes everyone better around him. That’s one thing I’ve always noticed him about.”

According to IHSA bylaws, Wallen will be immediately eligible to play for the Maroons. The bylaws say any student who starts his education at a private school is allowed one transfer in their high school career to their home public school, where they would become immediately eligible barring any extenuating circumstances.

Wallen averaged 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds this past season at STM, helping the Sabers compile an 18-10 record and advance to a Class 2A regional title game. Wallen was a fixture in the starting lineup at STM as soon as he entered high school and was a key part of the Sabers winning a 1A sectional title in 2014.

“I’ve met some of the greatest people at STM, and I’ll have friendships with them until I’m really old,” Wallen said. “I’m still going to be in Champaign and will see all of my friends besides from 8-3 each day at school, so there’s not a whole lot changing in that regard.”

Wallen said he informed STM coach Matt Kelley on Sunday about his decision. Wallen said he withdrew from STM on Monday and plans to enroll at Central today.

“A guy like him, he’s always going to tell you how he feels,” Wallen said. “He was very nice about it. He’s helped me since I was a freshman, and if I ever have any questions or problems, he’ll always be there for me. I really appreciate him being my coach. We really had a good relationship.”

Wallen said he only thought of transferring from STM and jumping to Central “in the past couple of days.”

“There was no main factor, but the idea was in the back of my mind and my family and I weighed the pros and cons of leaving or staying,” Wallen said. “We all sat down and talked about it, and after we did it was pretty obvious about what decision I had to make. We all came to an agreement that it was a good move for expanding my options.”

Wallen played this past spring session with the 17U Illinois Irish AAU program and plans to play with the Irish again in July. It’s the same AAU program Jeff Finke helped coach in the past before he took the Central job in April 2015, and the AAU program all three Finke brothers — Michael, now at Illinois, Nick, an Army signee who just finished his senior year at Central, and Tim, who now plays AAU basketball with the St. Louis Eagles — have played for in the past.

For Wallen, there will be a step up from Okaw Valley Conference competition, mainly Class 2A schools with the exception of Rantoul in 3A, to the Big 12, which features a bevy of 3A and 4A schools stretching from Peoria to Danville.

“There’s no pushover games at Central,” Wallen said. “That’s what you experience in AAU. There’s someone that is always bigger and stronger than you. You’ve got to find a way to play through that, and that’s something I’m going to have to work really hard at, but I’m looking forward to it.”

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