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By Bob Kelley, retired RLC Sports Information Director
In the case of Rebecca Harris, being referred to as well-traveled is not a bad thing even though she was a point guard for women’s basketball teams at Rend Lake College and the University of Illinois.
Harris did her traveling in a worldly connotation as a member of a military family, not on the basketball floor. The family was living in the Mascoutah area – Scott Air Force Base territory – by the time she graduated from high school.
Harris was most at home, however, in a gymnasium somewhere, anywhere. Her father, Johnnie, also served his country as a basketball referee and took his willing daughter with him as often as possible on many a road trip as she got older. That is where her love for the game took roots. She credits that relationship for having the most influence on her playing career because she was always around the game.
With good results, we should add.
On Saturday, April 27, “Bec” Harris will be welcomed into the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame. The Class of 2013, the 14th to be so inducted, is comprised of three individuals and one team. The best of the best:
• Harris was one of the top two scorers in Women’s Basketball history when she played for the Lady Warriors from 2004-06. She ranked No. 3 in the country when she scored 707 points and averaged 23.6 points-per-game as a sophomore, earning All-America Honorable Mention status before becoming the first Juco recruit in six years to join the Fighting Illini.
And, apparently, the key to her success was a simple one . . . Eat one package of gummy bears any time within a seven-hour time frame prior to tip-off.
• Craig Sands (Highland) established Warrior Baseball records for most single-season and career pitching victories (16 and 31, respectively), complete games (16 and 28) and innings pitched (144 and 258). They erased standards that were established 11 years prior to his arrival, and they remain on a pedestal alone to this day . . . especially impressive since he played from 1987-89.
• Brad Weathers (hometown, Benton) was a reliable contributor for winning RLC Basketball Teams, including 20-6 Southern Illinois College Conference frontrunners, who went on to play for McKendree College. But it is as an Alumni Coach he has gained entry into the McKendree Hall of Fame in 1999, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005 and now the RLC Hall of Fame. He was “Coach of the Year” following a 32-3 Carlyle Indian Class A State Championship season in 1988-89 and his teams have won 477 games in 23 seasons at Carlyle and the last four at Nashville Community High School.
• Ho-hum, another NJCAA National Championship Cross-Country Team – more specifically, Fall 2006 – from Rend Lake College. Not so fast. Do not dismiss a fourth title, following those of past RLC Sports Hall of Fame Inductees representing Fall 2001, Fall 2002 and Fall 2003, as mere formality. This one came as a Division I competitor, just three years after the top two NJCAA divisions were combined; i.e., the challenge was even more demanding for the three-time D-II champs, who settled for third the next two years following consolidation before the D-I breakthrough.
Hall of Fame Charter Member Susie Woodward (Class of 2000) is the Lady Warrior record-holder after scoring 849 points her second year and 1,368 points overall in 1981-83.
Statistics for seven games her freshman campaign unfortunately are not available for Harris, but she netted 498 points in 22 documented games. Even without those seven “missing” outings, her 1,205 points surpass the 1,110-point total of 2003 Hall of Fame Inductee Cheryl Weis (1987-89) to rank No. 2 behind Woodward. And the 22.6-point freshman average for Harris projected over seven more games would put her very close to Woodward’s record total.
Woodward went on to play for Eastern Washington University. Weis started her last two years for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Harris was a go-to player in clutch situations with her outside shooting touch, explosive quickness, determination and ability to drive.
She formed a potent 1-2 punch with 3-point specialist Courtney Magness. Harris scored 30 points or more at least 10 times. Included were 33 (with four treys), 33 and 30 in a four-game span early in 2004-05 and back-to-back-to-back outbursts of 35 (23-24 free throws) versus Great Rivers Athletic Conference champion Southeastern Illinois, 35 in a home win over Vincennes (IN) and 30 (three 3s) vs. Olney Central in February for Coach Gerald Mumbower.
She recorded games of 32, 33 (four treys) and 30 (13-15 FT in her swan song) down the stretch as a sophomore, when she also averaged 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals under first-year Head Coach Glenn Box. The Lady Warriors were 18-13 and 19-12 with Harris earning All-GRAC and All-Region XXIV honors, finishing behind “Player of the Year” and All-America selection Amber Holt of SIC.
Her 23.6 ppg-average trailed only Naelonda Zamudio (28.2) of Kennedy-King College in Chicago and Alberta Auguste (23.7) of Central Florida C.C. in NJCAA Division I. Her 707 points in 30 games fell in line behind Aisha Mohammed (729 in 33 games) of Central Arizona College and Rita Kollo (711 in 34 games). Harris hit 47.4 percent from the field (249-525), 39.0 percent from 3-point range (41-105) and 75.0 percent from the charity stripe (168-224) her sophomore season.
For the Fighting Illini, she played in 30 games as a junior before starting 25 of 35 games at point guard as a senior. She averaged 10.1 ppg en route to Academic All-Big Ten and an All-Big Ten Tournament berth sparked by a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) in an opening win over Wisconsin, 22 points in a quarterfinal upset of No. 22 Ohio State and 15.3 ppg as her team reached the finals. U. of I. career statistics – 8.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 36.9% 3FG (third-best all-time) and 79.3% FT (sixth all-time).
For Mascoutah and Coach Terry Moeller, she was a three-time All-Mississippi Valley Conference selection and 1,000-point scorer.
The daughter of Johnnie and Belynda Harris has three siblings – Jay Omar, Beryl and Jasmyne.
Harris spent the past season as a Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach for Chipola College in Florida.