Illini of the Week: Michael Finke


Austin Yattoni

Illinois forward Michael Finke goes up for a layup during the game against Tennessee-Martin at State Farm Center on Nov. 12. Finke is one of only two upperclassmen to return this season, and is one of the team’s best shooters, consistent in his success from the 3-point line.

By Will Gerard, Staff writer

Junior Michael Finke has always had a knack for stretching the floor because of his shooting ability.

Even going back to high school, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 1.2 3-pointers per game and shot 32 percent from behind the arc his senior year at Champaign Centennial.

Since committing to Illinois, Finke has continued to refine his long-distance shooting, while gaining additional strength in the weight room.

Finke was listed at 220 pounds in his first year on campus, and would eventually redshirt that season, yet was still awarded the team’s “Most Improved Player” award.

“When I came in, I was probably 205,” Finke said. “My muscle mass has gone up a ton.”

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He now weighs 235 pounds after shedding 5 pounds over the summer in his third year of assistant coach Adam Fletcher’s strength and conditioning program, and will play a major role in first-year head coach Brad Underwood’s uptempo spread “four-out, one-in” offensive system, where he primarily roams the high-post and elbow areas of the floor out of the “pinch post” position.

“I think we can do a lot of things with Michael in terms of popping him on the perimeter,” Underwood said. “We do so much cutting and moving.”

Finke has embraced a leadership role alongside fellow junior Leron Black, who is the only other returning upperclassman from last year’s squad.

“The thing that’s always been kind of challenging for me is when things are going wrong, maybe trying to get on someone, and say it in a different tone,” Finke said. “I’m trying to get better with that, and I’m definitely getting out of my comfort zone.”

He shot 44.9 percent from the 3-point line during conference play as a “stretch four” off the bench last season, which was the eighth-best shooting percentage in the Big Ten.

“Being able to run against bigger players should definitely help us tire them out or get them in foul trouble,” Black said.

In his press conference following a 96-62 victory over Augustana, Underwood insisted that Finke almost always has the green light to shoot it from deep, and that he would actually prefer an increased number of 3-point attempts due to his utmost confidence in Finke’s jump shot.

“He’s an elite shooter,” Underwood said. “He’s one of the best shooters, not just in the Big Ten, but in the country.”

Finke averaged 14.7 points and 3.8 rebounds over the first six nonconference home games of the season.

He scored 22 points (8-15 FG, 5-11 3 FG) against North Carolina Central in 33 minutes on Friday night, which was just two points shy of a career-high set against Western Carolina in 2015.

In the aforementioned Nov. 22 contest versus Division III opponent Augustana, Finke recorded the second double-double of his career. He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 3-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Underwood will certainly expect other players to guard opposing big men due to lineup combinations based on “position-less basketball;” however, he will still rely on Finke to consistently battle for rebounds, especially once Big Ten conference play is fully underway.

“We can’t accept being outrebounded,” Finke said. “We have to put our mind to it, and go out there and just grab the ball.”


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