One year ago, the Timothy Christian boys basketball team was flying high, having qualified for the Class 2A state semifinals in Peoria — a place no Trojans team had been since 1980.
And with the snap of a finger, that dream was taken away courtesy of the at-the-time emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Timothy was in Peoria when word came down that the Illinois High School Association had canceled the tournament amidst the quickly growing pandemic, quashing the Trojans’ hopes of winning its first boys basketball state championship on the floor of Carver Arena at the Peoria Civic Center.
“It was really sad,” current Timothy Christian senior guard-wing Josh Harris '20 said. “We all met up in a hotel room and heard the news. It was a crying fest. Everybody was very emotional. We felt very bad for the seniors who had worked so hard. After the news, we went out to eat and kind of knew it was our last time together as a team. And then school closed. We had to make the best of it. We had fun and chilled there and did what we usually do, but those were definitely sad times.”
But those sad times turned on a dime for high school basketball athletes around the state when the IHSA suddenly announced earlier this year that there would be a 2020-2021 season, albeit a truncated one.
It allowed Harris one more hurrah on the Ward Athletic Center hardwood — a fitting end for a player whose impact and importance reaches far beyond the elite Timothy boys basketball 1,000-point career scoring club he recently joined.
“Josh is a great leader,” said Timothy senior guard Nic Martin, who, like Harris, started at Timothy Christian Schools in eighth grade. “Some people say because he’s a senior that this is his first year leading. That’s not the case at all. He’s been a leader since he got here in eighth grade. Josh knows what it takes to lead a team and knows what it takes to win. He’s a great person to be around. He’s always laughing and smiling, even when things don’t go his way. He’s always looking at how positive things are, how positive they could be and how things can be used as a learning experience. He’s very mature for his age. Josh always is pushing to trust God and trust in His process. He’s constantly reminding me if things don’t go my way, it’s all part of God’s plan, and it all leads to the glory of Him at the end of the day.”
Josh knows what it takes to lead a team and knows what it takes to win.
Harris said Timothy Christian has been a life-changing experience for him. “It really has helped me grow into a mature person,” he started, “not a better basketball person. Timothy has made me more mature and shown me how to get through the real world and how to act. It’s helped me grow in my faith. It’s helped me learn more about The Lord and has helped me get closer to God. The team does Bible studies on Saturday mornings. Two years ago we went to Arizona and talked a lot about how we could grow more in our faith. We’re not just basketball players. We are here to help people in this world.”
Harris said those team Bible studies hold added importance for him. “We sit down for 20-30 minutes and talk as a group,” he said. “We all want to grow and get closer to God. We’re going out there and doing it, and not just talking about it.”
Harris, who attends Resurrected Life Church International in Chicago, will go down in Timothy boys basketball annals as one of the program’s all-time best. He became the 12th player to eclipse the 1,000-point career barrier and the first since 2017. His play helped coach Scott Plaisier’s team to a 12-1 record, putting it squarely in contention to win the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division championship (10-0 in conference play through early March). Timothy won the conference title and has a 82-24 record since Plaisier took over the program four years ago.
“Josh can score the ball so many different ways and consistently, which is a huge thing,” Plaisier said. “His explosion in the open court is impressive. When he is in the open court, he downshifts and puts it in another gear. He’s very hard to stop. It’s impressive to watch.”
Plaisier marvels at much more than Harris’ elite basketball acumen. “The biggest thing with Josh is his character,” he said. “He’s a very good basketball player and a good teammate, but more importantly he is a young man of high character. It shows in the way he plays the game, the way he listens to the coaches and the way he leads his team. He has grown as a respectful young man — that is the most impressive thing.
“We want them to grow as men of faith and we do that through the game of basketball and the use of team concepts and being family oriented. Josh embodies that idea. He has grown as a man of faith. We want our players to be strong Christian men when they leave us and Josh is the perfect example of that and has been since he has been here. He’s very special.”
Harris’ next stop will be Illinois College in downstate Jacksonville, Illinois. While even greater things await Harris academically, athletically and spiritually, he admits leaving Timothy Christian will not be easy.
“It’s definitely going to be sad knowing I am going away from my friends and teachers and coaches,” he said. “The community of people is what I am going to remember. I didn’t know anybody when I came here. As soon as I walked in, everybody made me feel loved and they showed how great this community is. The love and encouragement of the teachers helped push me through. They showed they will help with anything. It will be heartbreaking moving on to the next chapter, but Timothy definitely helped me get to the next chapter.”