INA, Ill. (June 7, 2017) - Former Lady Warrior basketball standout Rebecca Harris will be coming back to Ina after a decade of professional playing and coaching. She will be returning to Waugh Gymnasium to become the new head coach of a program she once helped anchor.
A graduate of Mascoutah High School, Harris found a home at Rend Lake as part of the Lady Warrior Basketball team from 2004-06.
At RLC, Harris found success. As a Lady Warrior, she was third in the nation as a sophomore with 23.6 points per game and ninth in assists at 5.6 (in addition to 5.6 rebounds and two steals per outing) while hitting .495 from the floor, .390 from beyond the 3-point arc and .750 from the free throw stripe. Her teams won 19 games both seasons and she earned All-America Honorable Mention distinctions. She was inducted into the RLC Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2013.
“When I was in high school, I wasn’t getting the division one looks I really wanted. I had my sights set on one or two schools. My grades also weren’t the best. It was a good lesson to learn. I know first-hand now the importance of keeping up in school, and I tell everyone now to hit the books early,” she explained.
“For me, it was nice to find there were options out there like Rend Lake. It was a great fit. I came to campus, went on a visit. I was just sold on it.”
Following her time in Ina, Harris was recruited by the University of Illinois.
As a Fighting Illini, Harris started 25 games as a senior in 2007-08 for a 20-15 club that was a surprise finalist in the Big Ten Conference Tournament and advanced to the third round of the post-season Women’s National Invitational Tournament. She averaged 10.1 ppg, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists and netted 78.8 per cent of her free throws (89-113).
Following school, Harris went overseas to play professionally, logging a decade of professional basketball in a number of different countries, including stints in the Czech Republic, Greece and Poland.
“I spent most of my time oversees playing in Poland. I played for two different teams over there for four years. One team I played for was a Euro League team. That was a highlight. You got to just play against the best of the best, every country. One night you’re in Turkey. The next night you’re in Russia. I really enjoyed that.”
Harris grew up as a “military brat,” so traveling the world playing basketball wasn’t too far from the world she grew up in, spending the first 14 years of her life in various countries.
“I grew up in Germany, Japan and the Philippines. We moved around quite a bit. We reached Illinois right around the time I was going to hit high school. My parents knew that basketball was going to be a way of life for me. So, they wanted to make sure I had the right opportunities to maximize that,” Harris said.
Here in the states, Harris has kept up a professional basketball presence, playing for the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League’s St. Louis Surge. She has notched two national championships with the team, and has enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of family members and people who followed her locally.
Her journey into coaching has been another homecoming of sorts. She just wrapped up a stint of being the head coach at her high school alma mater of Mascoutah. She developed a passion for coaching when she took a break from playing professionally to coach at Chipola College in Florida.
Harris said her coaching style is intense and upbeat.
“I like to go fast. I like to go hard. I want my players to be in the other team’s face all the time on the defensive side of the ball. We won’t get tired. Conditioning is a big thing for me. I want all my players to be able to put 40 minutes in if necessary,” she expressed.
The new Lady Warrior coach said it’s an interesting experience to be coming back to coach another program that she once played for.
“It’s kind of funny at this point. Luckily I feel familiar with these roots. It lets me relate and share my story with these players. It also helps me show them what’s possible. We can have success as a team, and they can have success as players. I know, because I did. It also makes me come in with the attitude of ‘this is my house,’ and I want to make sure we get back to what it used to be,” Harris expressed.
RLC Athletic Director Tim Wills is also excited to have a former Warrior back on campus.
“We are extremely happy to have Rebecca Harris as our new Head Women’s Basketball coach. Rebecca was an outstanding player here at RLC and went on to experience success at the division-one level and professionally after leaving RLC. We are always happy to welcome back one of our own to lead one of our programs,” Wills said.
“We feel like having former student-athletes return to lead our programs provides our current and future student-athletes with a great example of what is possible through hard work on the court and in the classroom. We currently have our Men’s Basketball and Baseball programs being led by former student-athletes as well. We know that Coach Harris will be a great addition to our Athletic program and our college community. She will be a hard worker and will help to elevate our women’s basketball program to the level we want it to be.”
So, how is she going to make that happen? The new head coach is already busy laying the groundwork for next season.
“Right now, we are in the middle of recruiting. We are looking at some good players. We are hoping to get a few key players that can help us. I’m also focused on looking at our current roster and incoming freshmen that we will have as walk-ons and physical presences. I think the possibilities are there. I’m looking forward to when we can first get in the gym and get things going,” Harris explained.