The news about guys returning as improved and newcomers entering as better than advertised are the norm this time of year. But in Michael Finke's case, the results are literally visible.
The Centennial product was 6-foot-7 when he committed to John Groce and the Illini. He measured in at 6-9.25, without shoes on, during his physical shortly after enrolling this month.
"He's much taller, much bigger," Groce said of the power forward.
The other incoming freshman, Memphis native Leron Black, showed up at an expected 6-foot-7. Ranked as the No. 50 senior in the 2014 class, Black has impressed Groce and his teammates with his effort and hustle during the first two weeks of workouts.
"I think the guys really appreciate Leron's motor and physicality and toughness, at least when they're on his team," Groce said. "When they're not on his team they may not like that as much. That's been good. I think the guys really respect how hard he plays."
With 11 of 13 players back from last season, Black and Finke represent new blood. Senior Ahmad Starks says the freshmen might be more tired and sore than the veterans, but he also sees progress in necessary areas.
"Lot of team building out there, so they'll come into the mold of our team and be better communicators themselves," Starks said. "They'll learn what we want from them as leaders and they'll be able to follow right along and help us out."