FAIRBORN — Tim Finke’s first year at Wright State is an experience he wouldn’t want to repeat.
The 6-foot-6 senior wing spent one season at Grand Canyon University before realizing it wasn’t the best fit for him, but he found an ideal landing spot when he transferred to the Raiders in 2019.
He didn’t have instant success, though.
Nobody changing schools back then did.
That was before the transfer portal rules that allow players to go elsewhere without sitting out a year.
Finke had to practice on the scout team and watch games in street clothes — adapting to his new surroundings and improving his game but marking off time until he could play like a prisoner crossing out dates on his jail cell wall.
“It was brutal to sit and watch,” he said. “To be able to focus that year and learn the system helped, but those months can just drag. And then, of course, Covid happened. We went home, and it was like, ‘Are we even going to play next year?’
“A lot of stuff has happened in my time here. I feel like I’ve been here forever.”
The Raiders played a truncated season in 2020-21, going 18-6, and Finke established himself as a solid starter, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds.
He’s 30 boards away from becoming the 24th Raider to reach 500 for his career.
He’s got 728 points and could finish the season with 1,000 as a collegian, counting the 118 he scored at Grand Canyon.
But perhaps the stat that best sums up his value to the team is minutes played.
He’s been a workhorse, setting the program’s single-season record for minutes last year with 1,298, which was eighth nationally.
He’s first on the team this year with a 33.5 average.
“He’s rebounding well for us. He’s still our toughest, top defender and a guy we can lean on offensively. He’s put the work in,” coach Scott Nagy.
Actually, offense has been a source of frustration at times for the Champaign, Ill., product. He’s second on the team in rebounds (5.9 per game) and assists (3.8) and also is first in steals (1.2).
But while he’s fifth in scoring with an 8.7 average, his shooting percentages rank among the lowest on the team — 38.5% on field goals, 31.8 on 3′s and 70.3 on foul shots.
“He and I have talked about it, and I’m the same as him. When things aren’t gong well, you’ll bear down and think you can make it happen,” Nagy said.
“What you need to do is relax. Your body needs to relax.”
Other than an 18-point game against Robert Morris, Finke hasn’t scored more than 11 this season.
But he had a career-high 21 against Detroit Mercy last season and three other games with at least 18.
As a sophomore, he scored in double figures in 15 of 23 games (he missed one with an injury) and hit 16 twice.
“It definitely has been (aggravating) a little bit throughout the season,” Finke said. “As of late, my main focus is to be aggressive and put the focal point on my defense.
“When I do that, it allows me to relax a little bit. When I’m in that mode, I feel like that’s the best version of me.”
If Nagy could clone a defender for the rest of his coaching years, Finke would be the likely choice.
He’s almost always in the right position and seldom raises out of his defensive stance.
That allows him to get numerous deflections, and it’s why he’s a former Horizon League all-defensive team pick.
“I would say he’s got a level of frustration with the offensive end, but I keep saying this: Most guys would let that affect them on the defensive end, and he hasn’t,” Nagy said.
Finke appreciates the compliment, but he doesn’t see himself as being any different than his teammates.
Having a defense-first mentality takes a daily commitment.
“It’s not something I have down. I have to wake up every morning and remind myself to do it,” he said.
“But when I do that and simplify the game, that’s when I have my clearest mind and can play freely,” he said.
Milwaukee at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980
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