If you’re a true fan of Badger hoops, you’ve heard about Michael Finley. Yeah, that one six-foot-seven bucket-getter who propelled the 1994 men’s team to its first NCAA tournament appearance since the Bud Foster-led squad in 1947. The prolific scorer etched his name into the program’s history during the 1990s, and Friday, Sept. 24, University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh announced that Finley’s No. 24 will hang in the rafters forever.
Finley will join Ab Nicholas and Frank Kaminsky as the third men’s basketball player to witness his jersey adorn the Kohl Center. As a collegiate 18.7 point-per-game scorer, he was voted first-team All-Big Ten twice over four years, led the conference in three-point field goals made as a sophomore and held the Badger’s all-time scoring record until 2007.
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Finley’s most significant feat wearing red and white occurred during the 1994 season, where he, alongside Chicago-native Tracy Webster and center Rashard Griffith, led UW to an 18-10 record and ninth seed bid to the big dance.
By the first part of January, Wisconsin skyrocketed to number 12 in the country behind an 11-0 record, and even after a four-game losing streak, the preseason All-American and team captain elevated the Badgers against Michigan’s fab five March 2, 1994, rescuing tournament ambitions.
In a first-round battle against Cincinnati, Finley dropped 22 and would go on to face first-ranked Missouri in the round of 32. In a losing effort, he notched a career-high 36 points. Most importantly, though, the Badgers were back on the map.
As the 21st overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft, Finley was selected to the all-rookie first team and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He ended his career as a two-time All-Star, three-time league leader in minutes played per game, 2007 NBA champion with the Spurs and a revered teammate and sportsman throughout the NBA.
Off the court, No. 24 helped institute the Michael Finley Foundation Endowed Scholarship here at UW for a commendable student athlete. Michael Finley will go down in Wisconsin history as one of the most accomplished, determined and committed athletes who has ever stepped foot in Madison, and his number, along with his legacy, will be remembered forever.
As Chris McIntosh said, “[Michael Finley’s] impact on Wisconsin basketball is as profound as any athlete we’ve had.”