He had been committed to Hurley and his style of play, and he was expecting to play for the coach who had taken Rhode Island to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years. But instead of making an immediate decision on whether he would maintain his commitment or look at other schools (he likely could have gotten released from his letter-of-intent), Harris decided to wait out the coaching carousel and evaluate his options.
Soon, different names swirled in connection with Rhode Island, including David Cox. At the time, Cox was Rhode Island’s associate head coach; he has deep ties to the Washington area and was Harris’s main recruiter. So, when Cox was named Hurley’s replacement in early April, Harris felt comfortable and decided to stick with his commitment.
“The move for Dan Hurley was sort of surprising, but I’m excited to play for David Cox,” Harris said. “He had been watching me since my sophomore year. His face is nothing new, and basically he’s been around the longest. The transition was smooth.”
Harris will be headed to Rhode Island next week, ready to move into his dorm and start summer classes. He said he’s excited to join his new teammates; they have been communicating via group chat.
“I’m very excited to get in before the season starts,” he said.
Harris will join the Rams as a four-star recruit ranked 87th by ESPN in the Class of 2018. After signing with Rhode Island in October, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged a double-double this season, posting a team-high 20.7 points per game. He had 35 points and 22 rebounds in a 74-64 win over National Christian on Jan. 19.
Harris is a modern big man who can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting and also score near the rim. With his athleticism already an asset, he strove to improve his on-court vision as a senior.
“Jermaine is very versatile; he is a rare breed,” Rock Creek Christian Coach Chris Cole said. “He can shoot from the outside, is good defending the pick and roll and is a banger. Those three don’t come in the same package.”
Cole said before Rhode Island’s coaching change that Harris made his college choice based on three main criteria: the weightlifting program, whether the school graduated its players and whether there was an opportunity to play right away. With the Rams losing some key seniors, Harris said he hopes to contribute immediately.
“They are looking for him to play a big role in their system, but no promises,” Cole said.
Rhode Island had three players on its 2017-18 roster who played in the D.C. metro area: redshirt freshman Michael Tertsea (John Carroll), sophomore Jeff Dowtin (St. John’s) and senior Stanford Robinson (who transferred from Paul VI to Findlay Prep in Nevada and began his college career at Indiana). Robinson was one of five seniors who ranked in the top seven on the team in minutes per game, meaning the Rams will have some playing time up for grabs next season.
“It means a lot to me [to go to Rhode Island], because the program, what they are doing right now is kind of big,” Harris said. “To step in as a freshman is a hard task, but I’m up for the challenge.”
This season, Harris led Rock Creek Christian to a return trip to the Maryland private school championship game, where it fell, 64-58, to DeMatha. Rock Creek Christian beat Capital Christian in the Capital Beltway League championship.
Harris had close to 20 scholarship offers by the start of the summer of his senior year, and he made a shortlist of eight schools in July: Rhode Island, Xavier, South Carolina, Kansas, Maryland, West Virginia, Miami and Southern Utah. His decision came down to Xavier, South Carolina and Rhode Island, and the Rams won out.