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EIU's Ben Harvey (23) dribbles as UT-Martin's Derek Hawthorne defends during EIU's 78-71 loss to UT-Martin in the opening round of the OVC Tournament in Evansville, Ind., on Wednesday.

Eastern Illinois basketball is losing one of its top scorers to transfer.

Forward Ben Harvey is leaving the program after one season, EIU coach Jay Spoonhour confirmed to the JG-TC.

“It’s disappointing, but this is the climate we’re in now in college basketball,” Spoonhour said. “I like Ben, enjoyed having him.”

Harvey was third on EIU with 10.2 points per game. He shot 45.9 percent from the floor, 38.9 percent on 3-pointers and 75.3 percent on free throws. He averaged 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 21.7 minutes per outing.

The 6-foot-5 native of Jonesboro, Ark. became an immediate rotation piece for EIU at the start of the season. He played 18 minutes in the season opener at Texas, and posted a double-double in his third career game, a 68-66 overtime win against Western Illinois on Nov. 17. His highest-scoring game came on Feb. 16 against SEMO, when he erupted for 29 points and provided two lead-changing baskets in the second half. He ended that day 11-of-14 from the field and 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.

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Harvey was the key addition in EIU’s 2018 recruiting class and a longtime target before he committed in May. He chose the Panthers over offers from more established mid-majors Stephen F. Austin, UT-Arlington and Wright State, all of which had either reached the NCAA tournament or won a regular-season title in the last two seasons at that point. EIU extended him his first offer in the fall of his senior year at Link Year Prep in Missouri and hosted him on an official visit shortly after. Spoonhour and staff stayed in consistent contact as Harvey chose to wait until the late signing period to make a decision.

Before Harvey’s departure, the Panthers were expected to return their top nine scorers from this season.

EIU now has three open scholarships. It has one player signed for next season, McLennan C.C. (Texas) forward Jordan Skipper-Brown.

Harvey is the first player to seek a transfer from EIU this offseason. Point guard Terrell Lewis, though, will apply for a sixth year of eligibility after missing nearly all of the last two seasons due to injury and if it is granted, it will not be used at EIU.

Contact Patrick Engel at (217) 238-6856. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickEngel_

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Sports writer

I cover Eastern Illinois football and basketball, as well as Mattoon/Charleston prep sports, for the JG-TC

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