Wright State basketball coaches knew they’d be in a fight to land Tim Finke once he announced he was transferring from Grand Canyon, and they went the extra mile — extra miles, actually — to show him he was a priority.
They took a trip to Phoenix to meet with the freshman guard during a break from classes, making an effective pitch there, and they also hit a home run while getting more acquainted with the player and his family at their home in Champaign, Ill.
But though Finke warmed to coach Scott Nagy and his assistants and found the Raiders’ style of play ideal — they run a motion offense that creates plenty of open looks for shooters — he wasn’t quite ready to sign until spending a couple of days on campus.
“On my visit, it checked off every box for me,” he said. “The staff has always been really, really good. They were incredible then, too. The facilities were better than I even expected. They had said great things about them, and it’s really nice to see all of that. Then I got to hang out with some of the guys.”
He was hosted by the affable Loudon Love, the All-Horizon League center, and hobnobbed with other Raiders.
“They were really genuine and really good guys,” said Finke, who lives just down the street from Nagy’s boyhood home in Champaign.
“To be surrounded by great people on a team is something that was big for me. I feel like they definitely fit the part.”
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Finke, who played in all 34 games with three starts for Grand Canyon last season, became the second transfer to sign with the Raiders last week. And the other, former Northwestern guard Jordan Ash, believes he found everything on his wish list, too.
Unlike Finke, who will have to sit out next year because of transfer rules, Ash will be eligible immediately as a grad transfer, having earned his degree in communications with a long-term plan to get into broadcasting.
He was a team captain as a senior last season, but he played in only 10 games because of a quad injury and was granted a medical redshirt year.
“The most important thing for me was to get my degree from Northwestern,” he said. “But this fifth year is a basketball decision to go somewhere I would be comfortable and could showcase my abilities while also playing around good players.
“More than anything, I just wanted a fresh start, a new beginning. After four years, being under a system — and not saying anything negative about Northwestern — I think it was time to move on.”
While the 6-3, 200-pound Ash was deciding to relocate, he received valuable input from former Wright State coach Billy Donlan, who was an assistant at Northwestern before becoming the head coach at UMKC in March.
“I asked him about the area and what he really liked about the school. He had all good things to say,” Ash said.
“It’s always a new system when you switch coaches, but coach Nagy still had some of his guys on the team. That culture overlapped, and I knew there would be some similarities there. It was important to talk to him because he had a perspective that was better than anyone else I could talk to.”
In the last two years, the Raiders have won a regular-season league title and conference tournament and played in the NCAA tourney and NIT. And their winning ways seem to be opening doors they couldn’t get through before.
Finke was rated as the No. 2 recruit in Illinois and 27th-best shooting guard in the nation in the Class of 2018 by ESPN.com. And Ash, a Bolingbrook, Ill., native, was a coveted recruit who had scholarship offers from Purdue, Xavier and DePaul.
“I like to call myself a winner, so I wanted to go someplace where they can win, and they’ve proven that,” said Finke, who averaged 3.5 points with a high of 14 against Utah while helping the Antelopes to a 20-14 record. “They’ve had dominance in the league, and to be able to help with that will be fun. That’s something that stood out to me.”
Ash, who competed against Raider point guard Cole Gentry in high school, is battle-tested, having played in 88 games with six starts for Northwestern. His career high is 11 points.
But after reaching the NCAA tourney for the first time in school history in 2017, the Wildcats have gone 15-17 and 13-19 the last two years.
Playing for a league title contender next season was too enticing to pass up.
“I just wanted to go somewhere that had a winning culture and where I also could get better as a player and person and put myself in position to have a great fifth year,” he said.
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