Jamir Harris and Destiny Pitts signed with Gophers basketball during the early signing period, which ended Thursday.
Harris, a 6-foot-2 guard at Patrick School in New Jersey, and Pitts, a 6-foot wing at Detroit Country Day in Michigan, talked recently about why they're excited about playing for Minnesota next season.
On Jan. 16, Harris plays 10 a.m. CT on ESPNU with Patrick School in the Hoophall Classic vs. Pace Academy (Ga.) in Springfield, Mass. Pace is led by top-10 Class of 2017 player Wendell Carter Jr.
Q: What does it mean to be joined in Richard Pitino's 2017 recruiting class by St. Raymond's point guard Isaiah Washington?
A: The fact that I'm going to be playing with him next year in the backcourt is going to be crazy. I’m really looking forward to it. We know each other pretty well. I know we can play off each other well and make each other better. I’m looking forward to making things happen next year in the Big Ten.
Q: How often do you guys talk about goals for next season with the Gophers?
A: We text back and forth just saying that next year is going to be a great moment for both of us and how we’re very excited to play with each other. It makes it an easier transition going to college. So it will be fun.
Q: What did Pitino tell you about your role as a freshman?
A: To bring him shooting and defensive ability. But not only that, just to be a team player, go hard in practice every day and give it my all. I’m going to be a team-first guy. I’m not coming in as a freshman expecting to get mine and get mine only. My first and only priority is to do what’s right for the team. If the team needs me to score points or set my teammates up, then I’ll do that -- whatever it takes to win. Coming in as a freshman, I want to be a part of a winning program. I know we can do that next year.
Q: Does it seem to you like the Gophers can take a big step forward this season?
A: Definitely. I’ve had an opportunity to meet all the guys on the team. I played with (Gophers sophomore guard) Dupree McBrayer in high school my freshman year. He’s coming back a lot stronger. The team as a whole is stronger. Just watching them in practice, I know they’re going to have a sense of urgency and focus this year. I think that’s going to help them in the long run win a lot more games. I’m very excited to be watching them.
Q: What have you noticed about McBrayer’s improvement?
A: Besides gaining weight, I’ve noticed his work ethic. He’s worked extremely hard. I saw it when he was a senior and I was a freshman (in high school). But four years later, he’s working even harder. It’s great to see. He and I have a great relationship. Brings me a lot joy to watch his success.
Q: Patrick School is ranked No. 10 nationally this season. Kentucky recruit Nick Richards has a chance to be a McDonald’s All-American. What are the team’s expectations this year?
A: The last four years we’ve been picked as favorites to either make it to the finals or win the (Tournament of Champions). This year we’re mostly seniors returning, so I don’t see why we can’t get it done this year. It would be great to get the first TOC in the history of the Patrick School (used to be known as St. Patrick’s).
Q: Do you still see St. Pat alums come to campus like Kyrie Irving or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?
A: Not that long ago, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist came by and spoke with the team. I chatted up with him a little bit. Having the older guys come back and talk to us about their experiences is great. That’s just motivation for me. I met Kyrie my freshman year. He came by practice during the season. It was great going against him. He’s a great guy and great player. Great role model. You could ask him any question you wanted and he would try to give you his best answer. It means a lot coming from him. Knowing he doesn’t forget where it started, even with how successful he is now.
Q: Did you have any doubts about signing when your friend, Deja Church, switched her commitment to Michigan?
A: There weren’t any doubts in my mind. My parents kind of had a little doubt. But once I explained the reason she decommitted, then they understood it. It kind of surprised me with my friend. But I know what I wanted to do. We’re still friends. We’ve known each other since the third grade. But when we play Michigan, we won’t be friends (Pitts laughs). She knows what’s coming for her.
Q: What do you hope to bring to the Gophers next season?
A: I just want to bring energy and whatever the team needs me to do. I like to score. That’s one of the reasons they recruited me. I shoot from the outside and like to drive it, too. I play four positions. I can stretch the floor when I play (power forward). When I play guard or the wing, I like to play in the lane. I play some point guard, because I just have a good instinct of knowing where everyone will be on the court. I have the plays memorized for every position. I don’t play center, though. We have a 6-foot-4 post player on our team.
Q: What are your goals for the high school season?
A: As a team, I want to win a state championship. As an individual, I want to play in the (McDonald’s) All-American game or in the Jordan Brand Classic game. But whether that happens or not, my ultimate goal is to win a state championship at the end of the year.