Good Morning, Illini Nation: Returning home

Sep. 13—Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team:

Illinois has only occasionally landed in-state talent in the Brad Underwood era. Ayo Dosunmu was the big get, of course, and Adam Miller was for a very brief moment in time, but others have chosen to go elsewhere.

With the potential to return "home." That's what Terrence Shannon Jr. did ahead of the 2022-23 season and what Justin Harmon did this offseason. Two Chicago natives, Shannon a Lincoln Park grad and Harmon a former Condor from Curie, spending the end of their college careers at Illinois.

Underwood saw Harmon play in high school. The 6-foot-4 guard was lightly recruited, though, and wound up going the junior college route in Kansas before winding up at Utah Valley.

That's where Underwood saw Harmon again. A self-proclaimed "college basketball junkie," the Illinois coach was watching this past March when Utah Valley faced Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the NIT. The Wolverines posted a 74-68 victory, and Harmon was a major reason why with 17 points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists.

"Utah Valley, if you don't know, had one of the really good basketball teams in America last year," Underwood said. The Wolverines finished the year 28-9. "I'm watching those games. I was like, 'Golly, Justin Harmon. I remember that kid in high school.' He's destroying Cincinnati. I mean, destroying them. All of a sudden it pops up that he's in the portal, and it was like, 'Man, we've got to try and get this young man. Young guy? More like old guy.

"It worked out great. Justin's a very versatile player. I think he's got great toughness and character and can guard, and he's a great finisher."