CHAMPAIGN -- Hometown product Tim Finke has been on the Illini campus so many times that his unofficial visit total is officially uncountable.
The Champaign Central junior wing is a frequent visitor of the Ubben practice facility, he attends as many home games as possible, and he enjoys hanging out with his brother, Michael, and the rest of the Illini team off the court.
There is a high level of comfort for Finke with a program he knows so well. On Friday, he took more of a formal trip to campus to meet with John Groce and his staff.
"It was really cool. When I first got there, we went to lunch with the staff. After that, we went and toured the State Farm Center, which was really cool. A lot of new changes in there. It was really neat to see all of that," Finke said. "I went to see practice after that. People probably think I see a ton of practices. I really haven't seen that many, but it was good to see. I like what they're doing over there."
Finke talked about his observations from practice.
"They had to go a little lighter because it was Jalen Coleman-Lands' first practice back so they weren't doing much contact stuff at the beginning. After they started running fullcourt 5-on-5, they were playing pretty well," Finke said. "It was pretty cool to see my brother play. That's always neat for me to do. I like how they were playing. They were playing fast, and I like their quick-hitting stuff."
"All around, I think they'll be pretty good. They've got a lot of experience. As long as they stay healthy, they should be able to compete at a really high level, in my opinion."
High-level competition is what you could call when it Tim and Michael square off in a brotherly battle. Tim said they played against each other during the offseason, and both players' work in the weight room made those contests a little more physical.
Tim sees vast improvement in his older brother's game.
"He's gotten a ton better to me. His ability to make shots at his height, it just makes his game that much better and it makes it harder to guard him," Tim said. "He's put on some weight and that always helps. He's looking good."
The Illini would like to put the Finke brothers on the same court in orange and blue for the 2018-19 season, and the hometown fan base has certainly been on board with that idea. That is one aspect of Illinois' sell, and they were the first high-major program to offer the four-star wing back in July 2015.
"They obviously want me. Being here in Champaign, staying home -- a lot of kids would love that. So they're obviously selling that: 'This is your town' and stuff like that," Finke said. "They say that the offense fits me and they can run stuff around me. I can play with Michael for that one year. So they're saying that type of stuff, and I'm looking into all of it -- as I am with the other schools as well. It's been pretty cool."
Who are the other schools? Finke has double-digit offers, and he has visited some other campuses as well. He told IlliniInquirer.com that the schools that "have been the most consistent" with him are Illinois, Oregon, Notre Dame, Creighton and Vanderbilt -- in no order.
He took unofficial visits to Notre Dame and Vanderbilt in September.
"It's going pretty well right now. It's going pretty smooth," Finke said. "I haven't narrowed a list or anything."
The recruitment process began earlier for Finke than some others, which increases the odds for an early decision in some cases. But Finke said he isn't thinking about that right now.
"I don't really have a timetable. I'm just looking for the right fit, in all honesty. When I feel the right fit, I'll know," he said. "I'm not feeling any pressure or anything like that. I'm just going into these visits with an open mind and looking at everything."
For now, Finke is mainly focused on getting ready for his junior season.
"Open gyms have been going well. We're finishing up here. We've only got a few more left. Personally, I feel that I've been playing pretty good," he said. "I'm trying to get everybody involved, and trying to get everyone to come together as a team. At this point in the season, you want to get the chemistry going so you can have it by the time you play your first game."
"We're going to have some good pieces with our team. I'm hoping we can make a deep run. I'm looking forward to it a lot."
Finke essentially lived in the gym over the summer, which included a stint on the 17U EYBL circuit with the St. Louis Eagles. Known for his offensive skill, Finke said he made the most improvement at the other end of the floor.
"I definitely thought I got a lot better defensively from the summer. That was one of the main keys for me going into the summer trying to improve. Being in the EYBL, you're going up against top players every single game. Playing in college, it's more about who can you guard," Finke said. "So I went into the summer trying to develop a defensive mentality, get as many stops as I can and guard the ball. With my offensive game, I've been working on my shot and my handles every day."
As it stands right now, Finke is ranked as the No. 96 player nationally in the 2018 class by Scout.com, and he is second in the state of Illinois. The Illini have a select number of targets in that class, and Finke was the first to see the finishing touches on the renovated State Farm Center -- including the Mannie Jackson Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame.
"That was really cool. One cool thing about that was there was a feature on the video board where you can see everybody that's played there. So we could see my dad's stats. That was kind of funny with him," he said. "And the inside of the State Farm Center was really neat. There are so many different improvements now. It's one of the top arenas, honestly."
When you look on that brand new video board, you can find a Finke family member from the past and present. And fans continue to hope that Groce's staff can move Tim from the recruiting board to the video board in the future.