CARBONDALE — SIU men's basketball coach Bryan Mullins helped two players that sat out at Loyola become Missouri Valley Conference players of the year.
That's a tall order for 6-foot-5 guard Ben Harvey, a transfer from Eastern Illinois that will have to sit out the 2019-20 season, but one he will strive for. Clayton Custer, the 2018 MVC player of the year, came from Iowa State. Last season's league player of the year, Marques Townes, came from Fairleigh Dickinson before starring for the conference champion Ramblers.
Harvey averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for a 14-18 Panthers squad as a true freshman last season. The Jonesboro, Arkansas native will be a 21-year-old sophomore when he becomes eligible for the Salukis in 2020 and will have three years to play. Harvey scored a season-high 29 points against Southeast Missouri State and had 10 points or more in 19 of his 32 games.
"I would say my best deal is to shoot, but I wouldn't say I was just a spot-up shooter," Harvey said. "I can score at all three levels, whatever they're taking away or whatever they're trying to take away. I can just score at all three levels. I'm a scorer overall, but will do whatever it takes."
A 45.9% shooter for the season, Harvey made 35 of 90 behind the 3-point arc (38.9%) and 75.3% at the free-throw line (55 of 73). More than two-thirds of his points came inside the arc.
"Coach put me in wherever we needed," Harvey said. "This year we ran a four-guard lineup, which coach Mullins is kind of talking about playing. Sometimes I played the '4' and had to guard the '4' man. I liked playing the '4' man, because it gives you a mismatch on offense, kind of playing against bigger guys and slower guys. I'm more of a combo guard."
Harvey is one of four guards in SIU's 2019 recruiting class, and the biggest along with 6-5 incoming sophomore Harwin Francois of Daytona (Florida) State College. Trent Brown, a 6-2 guard at Pinnacle (Arizona) High School, was Mullins' first signed recruit. Lance Jones, who led Evanston Township High School to the state championship game, signed with SIU last November.
"(Mullins) strikes me as a guy with a chip on his shoulder. Being a lot younger coach, he has the chip, and he wants to go out there and prove that he can win," Harvey said. "Like he played when he was at Loyola. He knows how to win and knows how to recruit the right guys. Just a real good guy that cares about his players."
Harvey played one year at Link Year Prep School in Branson, Missouri, where he averaged 25 points, five rebounds and four assists a game, before signing with Eastern Illinois. His senior year at Jonesboro High School, the Hurricane went 32-0 and won the Class 6A state championship. Harvey was the second-leading scorer on that team, which featured Arkansas signee Desi Sills and two other players that went to Arkansas State.
Harvey, Brown and fellow Saluki signee Marcus Domask, named the Wisconsin Mr. Basketball by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, all won state titles. Last season, sophomore forward Brendon Gooch was the only Saluki on the roster that had won a state championship.
"Ben continues to add to our winning culture by going undefeated his senior year and winning a state championship," Mullins said. "He understands the work ethic and commitment it takes to win at a high level."
Harvey said he chose SIU because basketball is a priority, and he liked the players and coaches. He knew current Saluki assistant coach Pat Monaghan because he recruited him during his high school and prep school days when Monaghan was at Milwaukee.
Harvey said he was excited to get to Carbondale this summer and get to work, even though he won't play in an official game for 17 months.
"I'm just ready to get down there and get started, and bring some rings back to the city," he said.