Wright State basketball: Finke playing pivotal role for Raiders

Wright State guard Tim Finke shoots against Marshall during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (E.L. Hubbard for the Dayton Daily News)
Wright State guard Tim Finke shoots against Marshall during a mens basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (E.L. Hubbard for the Dayton Daily News)

FAIRBORN -- Tim Finke is building lasting memories at Wright State after transferring from Grand Canyon in Phoenix. He has a pivotal role for the Raiders and is meshing with his teammates.

But nobody can fault him if doesn’t exactly recall EVERY single moment from this promising season. There was a brief period at the start of a New Year’s Day game at Oakland where a blow to the head sent him to La-La-Land.

“I was going up for an offensive rebound, and it was weird. I got an elbow and a forearm to the face, and it was a quick second where I blacked out and didn’t know where I was,” he said.

He was put into concussion protocol and missed the rest of the game and the next one, too.

ExploreRebounding remains key for Nagy, Raiders

“It kind of (stunk) that it happened in the first two minutes and I had to sit out the whole weekend,” he said, “but you have to bounce back.”

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore has certainly done that. Actually, he’s just picked up where he left off.

Finke (pronounced FINK-ee) is averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 rebounds (it’s 10.8 and 7.0 if take out the game with the two-minute stint). He’s also become the team’s best outside shooter, earning coach Scott Nagy’s confidence.

When the Raiders needed a 3 to tie Youngstown State on Friday, Nagy set up a play for Finke, and he knocked one down from the corner with 13.5 seconds left to provide hope. The Penguins, though, emerged with the win with a bucket at the buzzer.

He’s shooting 40% on 3′s and has the frame to mix it up inside at times, which the Raiders need since they start four perimeter players with center Loudon Love.

“We expect that from him,” Nagy said of Finke’s presence on the boards. “He’s got a good nose for the ball. He’s got a good motor. That makes for a good rebounder.”

He’s also a willing defender. Of course, nobody plays for Nagy without making defense a priority.

“We’re still in the process of trying to figure his game out and the best ways to use him,” Nagy said. “He’s really a tremendous defender, and we probably need to give him more of a role in our defensive scheme. He can guard a lot of positions. And he’s starting to score a little better and feel more comfortable there.”

Wright State guard Tim Finke cuts through Youngstown State traffic during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 9, 2021. Wright State won 93-55. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard
Wright State guard Tim Finke cuts through Youngstown State traffic during a Horizon League game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Jan. 9, 2021. Wright State won 93-55. Contributed photo by E.L. Hubbard

Finke has had three double-figure rebound games this season. As one of the top prospects in Illinois while playing for his father, Jeff, at Champaign High School, he averaged 21.0 points and 9.2 boards as a senior in 2017-18.

“My dad always told me to crash the boards. ‘Don’t stand around, keep crashing.’ … It’s a way to get easy buckets with put-backs and also just get more possessions for your team,” he said.

His defensive mindset isn’t complicated.

“I just try to be the hardest worker out there and do that every single possession,” he said.

The Raiders have relatively young roster (just one senior along with a fourth-year junior), and Finke has the kind of maturity that can help with the grind of the season.

Players can’t rely on fans to get them fired up and have been forced to find other ways to stay inspired.

“When it gets into January, you can tell it’s the same routine every single week, and you’ve got to find ways to stay motivated,” Finke said.

“With the veterans on the team, that’s a way they can be encouraging and push people, and I think they’re doing a good job of that. But that’s something I can do myself, being in college for a few years.”

The Raiders played on ESPN2 last weekend, and will be on ESPNU when they host Cleveland State at 7 p.m. Friday, meaning Finke’s family and friends back home are getting a chance to see him.

But while they may recognize his all-around game, they might do a double-take on close-up shots.

His hair is long enough that he wears it in a Samurai ponytail, and he’s also grown a Jeremiah Johnson beard.

“Up until my freshman year in high school, I always had a buzz cut,” he said. “When it got a little long, I was like, ‘I’m hot. I need a haircut.’

“My junior year, I had it pretty long on top, but then I cut it down to a regular haircut.”

And the facial fuzz?

“When we hit a quarantine this year, I grew the beard out. I figure I’ll just keep wearing it long,” he said

With a quick shrug, he added: “I might as well do it while I’m young.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Cleveland State at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPNU, 106.5

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