CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As if Mondays weren’t bad enough already, it wasn’t a positive start to the week for the Illinois Fighting Illini and head coach Brad Underwood.
In separate announcements on Monday, sophomore guard Te’Jon Lucas and redshirt junior forward Michael Finke both announced that they would be transferring from Illinois.
Finke will be a graduate transfer next season and will be eligible in 2018-19, while Lucas will have to sit out the 2018-19 season and have two years of eligibility remaining.
The list of players who have left Illinois before their eligibility has expired this off-season is now up to four. Leron Black left early to pursue professional opportunities, while freshman Mark Smith announced his intentions to transfer after a disappointing first season in the NCAA.
Both players weren’t expected to take on an expanded role with the team in 2018-19, which was a big factor in their decisions to transfer.
In 2017-18, Lucas built off a strong freshman season with another well-rounded campaign. He averaged 5.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, all of which were up from his numbers as a freshman. He also shot 47.8% from the floor, but just 26.3% from three point range.
Lucas closed the season with a pair of double-digit point performances over his final three games. He posted 12 points, six rebounds and five assists on February 22nd against the Purdue Boilermakers. Two games later in the season finale, he posted 12 points, two rebounds and eight assists against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Finke, a 6’10” forward who hails from Champaign, will pursue a Master’s degree and play his final year of eligibility elsewhere. He played three seasons for his hometown school, and averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds during the 2017-18 season.
In Big Ten play, Finke didn’t have much of an impact for the Illini. He scored in double figures just four times against conference opponents, and two of those performances came in the final two games of the season. He averaged 16.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over the final two games of the season.
While the transfer news is fresh, Finke’s recruitment and ultimate commitment will be a story line to watch. Tim Finke, who is Michael’s younger brother, recently signed his national letter of intent with the Grand Canyon Antelopes. Time will tell is Michael follows Tim to the Western Athletic Conference to play for Dan Majerle and the Antelopes.
Tim was recruited by Illinois before ultimately committing to Grand Canyon.
Illinois posted a 14-18 record overall in 2017-18, the first year for the team under the guidance of head coach Brad Underwood. They went just 4-14 in Big Ten play.
– T. Bennett