It has been a good last few months for John Groce at the University of Illinois. First he pulled in a top 20 recruiting class in 2012, then he got the team off to an 11-0 start, and now he reeled in his first commitment in the 2014 class with Champaign (Ill.) Centennial forward Michael Finke.
Both of Finke’s parents went to Illinois so many assumed he was a lock for the Illini, but Peoria Irish AAU coach Gavin Sullivan says that isn't the case.
“Really it was never a lock for Illinois but they worked at it pretty hard. The 11-0 start really helped them and worked to their benefit,” said Sullivan. “Michael is a local kid whose parents went there so that helped, but it was the start to their season and the relationship that they built with Michael that made the difference.”
Along with Illinois, Finke also had offers from Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big Ten, and Sullivan says that Finke will bring a lot to the table for the Illini.
“He is a really smooth pick and pop four,” said Sullivan. “His body has really matured especially coordination wise. His shot has always been there especially from beyond the arc. He is still growing and only 16. He is a typical pick and pop four with the frame to add a ton of weight.”
One specific part of the 11-0 start that proved to be a factor for Illinois was the play of current power forward Tyler Griffey. Griffey has nearly doubled his scoring average for the Illini this season as compared to last, and his style of play has been an asset in Groce’s system.
Sullivan says that Finke saw himself fitting in well, and Griffey’s strong senior season really nailed that point home.
“It’s played a big role into Michael’s thinking,” Sullivan explained. “Tyler Griffey was kind of a forgotten man the past three years, but Michael has paid attention to them this year and Tyler has been making shots and getting a lot of open looks. Michael definitely has noticed that.”
This is the first commitment for Illinois in the class of 2014.