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Finke To Illinois December 13, 2012

So Michael Finke is on board. The 6′-9″ big man from Champaign is looking forward to being known as the 6′-9″ big man from Champaign for an additional four years. And I use “big man” loosely here – Finke will be shooting threes like Tyler Griffey, not backing players down like Marcus Griffin.

I’m excited about the verbal. Here are some random thoughts on his commitment:

Slam Dunk

Finke’s dad was part of the Nick Anderson/Kendall Gill/Stephen Bardo recruiting class (feel old yet?). But then an injury pushed him from basketball to football, and he finished his career as a tight end on the football team.

So not only do you have a kid from Champaign Centennial, you have a legacy kid from Champaign Centennial. And on top of that, he fits a role that John Groce loves: the stretch four. When I got the chance to interview Groce back in June, here’s what he said about Tyler Griffey at the stretch four:

I think in terms of our style of play, Tyler is going to benefit big-time in terms of how we play. He’s going to stretch the floor for us – we’ve always played a stretch 4 – and he’s going to be able to get threes off penetration. He’s going to have a lot of freedom to shoot the ball.

So you have a kid from Champaign Centennial with an offer. A kid who is the son of a former Illini player. A kid who plays the stretch four, and John Groce has “always played a stretch four”. Could this have been any more of a slam dunk?

Different Kinds Of Bigs

Groce has now secured commitments from three big men: Austin Colbert and Maverick Morgan in the 2013 class, and now Finke in the 2014 class. And all three are different.

Colbert is your prototypical bouncy big. Solid athlete, great hops, can run the floor a bit – he’s probably the most similar to our current starting center, Nnanna Egwu.

Morgan is your beefy big. I think he’ll be somewhere in the Shaun Pruitt to Robert Archibald range as far as style of play. Add some weight to his frame, work on his post moves, and be that rebounding, low-post scoring big that every team needs.

And then Finke is a stretch four. What you see from Tyler Griffey this year is what you’ll be seeing from Finke in a few years. Pick and pop. Drive a little bit. The free part of Finke’s profile on ESPN (where they rank him as a 4-star, by the way) says this:

Love how his game sets up. If you’re in need of a shot making finesse four man, this is your guy. Beautiful jump shot, developing body. In the lane he finishes with his left hand, shows a hook shot after a spin move and has some bounce.

So the three bigs that John Groce has recruited so far are three completely different players. I like it.


But not everything is perfect. John Groce has recruited two top-end guards: Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill. Both are top-100 recruits who will likely contribute sooner rather than later.

But the other four players he’s brought in so far could probably be described as “complementary” players. Jaylon Tate might not score a lot, but he’s the pass-first point guard with a solid handle that we can rely on to beat the press. Maverick Morgan probably won’t be a 15 and 10 guy, but it sure will be nice to have a center with a solid frame, especially against frontcourt-heavy opponents. It will just take a few years of development.

So while I like players like Finke and Colbert, they probably aren’t going to be the kinds of players who lead the team in scoring and put the Illini in the Sweet 16. They’ll fill a specific role (Griffey) and let the stars take the team as far as we can go (Paul).

Which means it’s now time to recruit some stars. Even though we only have one available scholarship for 2014, and it’s now taken by Michael Finke, I still think we bring in another player. Maybe two. Somebody always leaves the team, and it’s two years before the 2014 class arrives on campus, so I’m guessing someone leaves and we bring in another player to join Finke in the 2014 class.

And that player needs to be a star. It’s time to fill up on Frankies and Derons and Brandon Pauls. Groce got close with Demetrius Jackson and Xavier Rathan-Mayes – now it’s time to close the deal on some similar players. We have six scholarships to give in 2015 (I’m guessing one more in 2014 and then five in 2015). At least four of those players need to be top-100 kids if we want to compete at the highest level in the Big Ten.

It’s a tricky thing, putting together a college basketball roster. You need four-year players that learn your system and you need 2-year players that rent space and then head to the NBA. Bruce Weber and Jerrance had it set up fairly well with the 2009, 2010, and 2011 classes. Just imagine if our backcourt was complimented with Jereme Richmond at the four and Meyers Leonard at the five. This team might have started the season at #10.

But then one player is gone after one year, and another leaves after their second year, and you’re left scrambling to put together a frontcourt. There’s only one Kentucky – reloading with top-5 guys every year. John Groce’s job is to find the right mix of players. He’s done a solid job of finding some stars (Hill and Nunn) and mixing them in with some role-playing, will-be-here-all-four-years bigs. Next step: more stars. Specifically, a scoring lead-guard, a sharpshooter, a versatile wing who can guard the four, and a rebound-eating low post monster. All of them need to be on campus by the fall of 2015.

No problem, right?

Lou-a-villini December 13th, 2012

I almost thought I was reading about Bill Cole in the opening. (Better, worse, same?)

p.s. I believe you mean “complementary.”

ATOillini December 13th, 2012

The best thing about this post is the Groce quote from June. He’s actually followed through with what he said he was going to do!

Robert December 13th, 2012

Thanks, Lou-a-ville. My grasp of our fine language is rediculously bad.
(it was intentional)

16th&mission December 13th, 2012

look on the bright side – at least you’ve got spelling down.

GrogsBBQPepperoni December 14th, 2012

And Robert, you’ll no longer be … embarrassed (2 r’s, 2′s).

illiniguy December 14th, 2012

The Deron/ Frankie/ BP types don’t always start out ranked as studs you know. For proof, you need only look at… Deron and BP. Neither were ranked all that differently than Hill or Nunn or…. Larry Austin. Sometimes a top 50 hs player becomes a top 10 or top 20 college player. We’ve seen plenty of examples of the opposite happening as well.

illiniranger December 15th, 2012

Finke will be a nice piece. I think he’ll have a similar career arc to billy cole and Tyler Griffey. He should fit the system