Illini Guard Sencire Harris Executing Redshirt Option During 2023-24 Season

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

November 7, 2023

(Cover photo courtesy Joe Clark/IlliniGuys)

CHAMPAIGN — Sencire Harris will not be playing in a regular season basketball game at the University of Illinois during the 2023-24 season.

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood announced on Monday night following the 80-52 victory over Eastern Illinois in the season opener that the sophomore guard will be inactive for the remainder of the five-month season in order to preserve redshirt eligibility.

The Illini’s seventh head coach said he met with Harris before the beginning of the 2023-24 campaign and it was determined that the 6-foot-4 guard will be inactive.

“He’s a really, really good player and I think one of the things that he understands about his development is he needs to get stronger. He needs to get bigger and it’s come at a little slower pace for him and I just think that down the road there’s going to be instead of a 10-minute-a-game guy, there’s going to be a 25-minute-a-game guy,” Underwood said about Harris on Monday night. “

Harris, who played in all 33 games as a true freshman last season with seven starts as the Canton, Ohio native who graduated from the same high school as NBA all-time leading scorer LeBron James, averaged 3.7 points per game and 2.1 rebounds per contest in 14.5 minutes per game.

“Sencire we all know is a very good defender but if he’s a guy who can add 15 to 18 pounds is a player where that time will pay off for him,” Underwood said. “I’m excited for him on the academic side for him as well. He has the opportunity to put himself in a great position to graduate and do work beyond that.”

Harris was battling a crowded guard and wing rotation at Illinois that included first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection Terrence Shannon Jr., starting guards Ty Rodgers and Marcus Domask and the emergence of graduate transfer Justin Harmon, junior Luke Goode and freshman Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn.

“You involve so many people in that [redshirt] decision that it’s not just (Harris) and I but also family and you got to talk to people and you want a sense of where we’re at,” Underwood said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s been an unselfish guy who has put himself in a position to where he’s always going to play minutes but I think he wants to be something special. To do that, he’s got to gain weight and continue to grow his offensive game.”

Harris played seven minutes in the 82-75 exhibition win over Kansas on Oct. 29. The highlights of Harris’ freshman campaign last season include posting 11 points, five rebounds and one steal in 21 minutes off the bench at No. 5 Purdue, seven points and career-high tying eight rebounds in win at Minnesota and eight points, three boards, two assists and two steals in 14 minutes in win over Nebraska.

Following this announcement, the speculation will likely turn to whether Harris would prefer to use his three remaining years of eligibility elsewhere than the Illini program. However, The basketball transfer portal window does not open until after the completion season. The window for men’s and women’s basketball players to enter the transfer portal will open for 45 days, starting the day after Selection Sunday in March and therefore, Harris would need to keep himself academically eligible and in good standing with the Illini program for the next five months before being given an option to transfer.

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