Tim Finke impressive in season-opener win vs. Illini signee Jeremiah Tilmon

Champaign Central 2018 wing Tim Finke led his team to a 66-40 win over East St. Louis and Jeremiah Tilmon in the season-opener.

SPRINGFIELD -- Illini fans helped pack the stands at Lanphier High School on Tuesday night to get a glimpse of five-star 2017 signee Jeremiah Tilmon and beloved 2018 hometown target Tim Finke going to battle.

"It was cool to see," Finke said of the fans. "But I definitely expected that for them to come out and see him."

Tilmon posted 13 points (6-14) with nine boards and three blocks. He made a handful of nice moves with post finishes and strong rebounds, but East St. Louis was pounded 66-40 by Champaign Central.

While Finke was humble in his crowd evaluation, Illini fans were buzzing just as much about him after the game. Finke finished the night with a team-high 14 points (6-10) to go along with five boards and three assists.

"It was a really big win for us. Obviously, our first game of the season and going up against Jeremiah Tilmon," Finke said. "Just going out here and playing team ball. Passing it and getting good shots is what we wanted to come in and do, and we succeeded with that."

The Maroons certainly played team ball at a high level of success, and their best player exemplifies that style. Finke has plenty of skill and versatility. He can score it in a number of ways. He hit a pair of threes and he slashed down the lane for a dunk.

Finke also has extraordinary vision and passing ability. Simply put: He makes winning plays. And he's gotten better following a summer on the EYBL circuit against top-level competition.

"I put on some weight right after AAU ended. That's helped me get more rebounds," Finke said. "And I've also focused even more on getting my teammates involved."

If you happened to glance at highlights of the dunk contest at Maroons Madness last week, you'll see Finke's physical progress on full display. Although, he's had some bounce for a while now.

As the focus shifts more and more towards 2018, Illini fans are anxious to know if John Groce and his staff can keep Finke playing at home. He took a formal unofficial visit last month to watch practice and tour the State Farm Center with the coaches.

"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 told "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." After Tuesday's game, Finke said that his recruitment has been steady.

"It's going pretty good. Basically, it's the same schools," he said. "It's not as heavy as the summer with contact because they're in season too. But it's going pretty smooth right now."

Who are those same schools? Finke listed Illinois, Vanderbilt, Oregon, Notre Dame and Creighton last month to as the five that have been the most consistent with him -- in no order. He took visits to Notre Dame and Vanderbilt in September.

You can bet you'll see him at the State Farm Center for more of his brother's games when their schedules don't conflict. Aside from that, the top-100 prospect doesn't have any recruiting plans at the moment. He has one thing in mind.

"Maybe I'll do something if it comes up. But right now, I'm focused on my team and getting wins," Finke said.

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