CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Champaign native Michael Finke was in the midst of his first season of pro ball, when the virus got a little too close to home. He was averaging more than eight points and three rebounds per game for a team in Estonia at the time, when one of his assistant coaches tested positive.
“It was scary. He didn’t have any symptoms when he was around us,” Finke said. “We had all just been traveling together, at the airport from a game a few days before that.”
Finke spent more than a week in self-quarantine. Once that was over, he headed back home to Champaign. One of three flights landed in Newark, right across the bay from New York City, the hardest hit spot in the United States.
“When we landed there it was you had to fill out a paper saying if you had any symptoms, all that stuff, then when you got off the plane they checked your fever,” Finke said. “If you passed that, you’re good to go and you go through a bunch of other security, a little more than usual that you would for any other flight but for the most part it went pretty quick.”
Finke is now safely back in Champaign reflecting on the year. He played the first five months in Poland before moving to Estonia. One of his last games of the season had a familiar opponent, another former Illini, Malcolm Hill.
“That was awesome, really cool experience. That’s something that we were talking about, once I signed with this team, that’d we’d be able to do,” Finke said. “We ended up beating them, which is always good. It was cool to experience all that. We were joking on the floor and just talking.”
He says he actually sealed the victory for his team with a couple free throws, off a foul by Hill. As for next season, Finke isn’t sure where it will take him. Could be back in Estonia, but he’s keeping his options open.