Justin Harmon announces transfer to Illinois basketball


Photo Courtesy of: Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/TNS

Utah Valley Wolverines guard Justin Harmon attempts to beat the shot clock while UAB Blazers guard Eric Gaines quits defending during overtime at the NCAA college basketball game in the National Invitation Tournament on Mar. 28. Harmon made public on his social platforms that he will be continuing his goal to play at the national level, announcing that he will be joining the Illini roster this upcoming season.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

The Illini continue adding to their 2023-2024 basketball roster with former Utah Valley guard Justin Harmon, who has announced he will transfer to play for head coach Brad Underwood. The six-foot-four guard is a Chicago native, returning home after four years at two colleges.

Harmon began his collegiate career at Barton Community College, where he played two seasons, averaging 16 points per game and earning first-team all-conference. His play earned him a spot in the rotation at Utah Valley, where he made an immediate impact.

Harmon started 43 games over two seasons and is coming off the best season of his career. As a junior, Harmon averaged 14 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Notably, for the Illini, Harmon improved significantly from two- and three-point range last season, becoming reliable from behind the arc down the stretch.

The Illini struggled to make three-pointers last year and have emphasized shooters in their portal search. Harmon attempted 106 threes as a junior, knocking them down at a 34% clip. This was a 5% increase from a year before, and his progress was evident over the course of the year, shooting 10/24 (42%) over his last six games.

A comparison for Illini fans is a smaller version of senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. While Harmon is not a true point guard, he has experience as a ball handler. Like Shannon, he makes a living getting into the paint, taking over 50% of his attempts at the rim, but he can also kick to an open shooter. Harmon is also known for throwing down some rim-rocking dunks, similar to those of Shannon and Kofi Cockburn that the Illini faithful have come to love.

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    After getting two big-name veterans in the portal a year ago, the Illini have taken a more subtle approach in 2023, with all three transfers coming from midmajor programs. Harmon joins senior forward Marcus Domask and sophomore walk-on Keaton Kutcher transferring into the program, all fitting the same mold. The trio is all shooters with underrated athletic ability, a trait head coach Brad Underwood has prioritized over everything else in the “everyday guys” era.

    With the addition of Harmon, the Illini have some decisions to make. If Shannon decides to return, the guard room may only have room for one more player. Expect the Illini to pursue a depth big and forward shooting for their remaining roster spots as they navigate the options with their leading scorer from a year ago.



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