Illinois basketball’s Finke isn’t headed to the barber any time soon


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Michael Finke (43) goes up for a hook shot during the game against Wisconsin at State Farm Center on Tuesday, January 31. The Illini lost 57-43.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Columnist

Michael Finke’s barber may not recognize the Illini forward the next time he comes in for a haircut.

That is, if Finke ever gets a haircut.

It’s hard to miss Finke when he’s on the court. While he stands 6-foot-10, his height might not be his most noticeable feature.

It’s been over a year since Finke has gotten a haircut; with  the combination of his beard, he almost looks like a werewolf in midst of transformation.

His hairstyle for this season was influenced by his brother, but it wasn’t supposed to last as long as it has for Finke.

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    Finke’s younger brother, Nick, played basketball at Champaign Central High School last year. During his senior season, Nick committed to Army — an academy chalk full of tradition, discipline and a strict hair policy.

    Nick realized he was going to have to adapt to a military style haircut when he enrolled, so he decided to grow his hair out for one last hoorah. Michael decided to join him.

    When school started in August, Nick was already at West Point and Michael was headed back to Illinois, but Michael was keeping his hair.

    “Once he went off to school I was like well, I’ve gone through all this trouble, some awkward stages, so I’ll just keep it going and now I’m just too lazy to get it cut,” Michael said. “I kind of like it, so I’m just going to keep it going.”

    Michael says family is important to him. A native of Champaign, being close to family is one of the reasons he chose Illinois.

    He talks every day with his family in a group chat.

    His conversations with Nick will sometimes drift more towards basketball.

    Army does not redshirt athletes, but instead sends younger players to play for its prep school to play junior colleges and other prep schools. Nick has been spending his year there. Michael and Nick will discuss one another’s games and give feedback, despite challenges.

    “In his dorm they don’t have Wi-Fi or even cable, so he’s not able to watch as much, but he’ll get online every once in awhile and check highlights and everything,” Finke said. “We just talk about the game and I’ll talk to him about his game and he’ll send me some highlights and I’ll talk to him about it.”

    Michael has been averaging about seven points per game while shooting about 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

    In a recent game against Northwestern, Michael came up big with 11 second half points to help spur Illinois to an upset over the Wildcats.

    During that game, Michael had a chance to chat with Gavin Skelly. The Northwestern forward used to rock long hair similar to Michael’s but recently cut it.

    “Skelly was growing his hair out for Northwestern, and I asked him at the free throw line why he cut it, and he said he was playing bad and the coaches woke him up one day with a phone call saying he had to go cut it,” Michael said. “And I said dang, I hope that never happens to me.”

    Head coach John Groce doesn’t mind the hair, according to Michael. His teammates have had mixed reactions. Illinois assistant coach Dustin Ford has expressed disinterest in the hair, Michael said.

    While Groce hasn’t actively told him to cut it, Michael’s parents aren’t fans — a week ago, Michael ran a Twitter poll asking his followers if he should keep it or cut it because of the pressure from them.

    “Both parents hate it,” Finke said. “My mom liked it a little a few months ago, but now she hates it and wants me to cut it, but I think that’s honestly why I’m going to keep it growing.”

    Sixty-two percent of his followers suggested he cut it and 38 percent said to keep it.

    Michael responded to the poll with disappointment and stated he was going to continue to grow it.

    When asked if he’s waiting for a specific achievement or accolade like a Big Ten Championship to then cut his hair, Michael laughed.

    “No I’m good, I’m just going to let it grow,” Michael said. “I think it will be cool in the summer to have it long and we’ll see what happens.”

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