Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris are starting their college careers soon.
The last time Washington and Harris were together, they shared the same court at the Jordan Classic all-star regional game last month at the Barclays Center in New York.
Now they will be roommates and soon begin preparing to make an impact as freshmen for coach Richard Pitino, who returns several members of a 24-win NCAA tournament team.
“Originally, I was going to come down in June, but they wanted me here early,” said Harris, who arrived on campus after graduating from high school about a week ago. “I couldn’t say no. It happened so quick. I’m very excited to experience new things in college and be a part of Gophers Nation.”
Washington is expected to be here on June 10, coach Richard Pitino said Monday morning during a Gophers' "Coaches Caravan" event. He had been expected to arrive this week.
Harris, a guard from The Patrick School, was an all-state player in New Jersey. Washington, a point guard from St. Raymond in the Bronx, was named New York’s Mr. Basketball. Both are 6-1 but with different skill sets.
Washington is a flashy finisher, facilitator and ball handler. His highlights and finger rolls, which he calls "Jelly,” have been a hit on social media from his all-star game appearances this spring. He won’t be asked to change his flamboyant New York City style.
“If you try to temper him, it’s not going to work,” Pitino said. “You got to let him be himself. You got to let him go. I’m excited to get a chance to work with him. I give my players a lot of freedom, as long as they do the right thing — wanting to win and being about the team.”
The Gophers will return All-Big Ten guard Nate Mason, All-Big Ten freshman guard Amir Coffey and high-scoring sixth man Dupree McBrayer. Harris and Washington will fill some holes that were apparent in the NCAA tournament loss to Middle Tennessee.
“I think we’ve got a lot of options now,” Pitino said. “And that’s what is exciting about it. As good as we were last year, we didn’t have a lot of depth in the backcourt. Obviously that showed when [senior Akeem Springs] got hurt.”
Harris believes he can help the Gophers improve their three-point shooting and perimeter defense. He also won’t hesitate to assert himself as a vocal leader.
“I’m not going to lay down and be quiet,” Harris said. “I want to come in and show I belong as far as a vocal member of the team. Offensively, I can play both positions. Coach Pitino talked to me about my shooting that I can bring that to the table. He said my ability to shoot off the dribble is needed. I just want to come in and make an impact whatever my role is on the team. I care about the success of the team as a whole.”
Back to alma mater
The Gophers will play at Providence in the Gavitt Tip-Off games in the 2017-18 season, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The game, part of a series of Big Ten-Big East matchups, is scheduled for Nov. 13, CBSSports.com reported. Pitino graduated from Providence and was a student manager for the Friars.