COVINGTON, Ga. — Presbyterian College became the first NCAA Division I school to take up Newton boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen’s challenge concerning Armani Harris.
The school from Clinton, South Carolina extended an offer Monday to Harris, a 6-foot-7 rising senior forward, following his unofficial visit Monday afternoon. In so doing, it became the third school to extend Harris a chance to play college basketball — Limestone and Clayton State, both NCAA Division II schools, were the others.
According to Rasmussen, several other mid-major programs such as Jacksonville, Mercer, Florida A&M, Redford and UNC-Greensboro have expressed solid interest, but have yet to pull the trigger on a scholarship overture.
Rasmussen also said he expects some of those schools to follow Presbyterian’s lead before long.
“I’ve been telling them all, somebody’s got to be the first one to offer,” Rasmussen said. “Presbyterian saw Armani in April, and they saw that he had a great motor, was physical and tough and that he has an improved jump shot that he’s been working on all summer and fall.”
The way Harris’ game is starting to take shape, Rasmussen said he sees Harris as a “mid-major college four, with the potential to play a stretch-four if he continues to improve his jump shot.”
Harris said he was excited about the potential opportunity to take his talents to college basketball’s highest level.
“It really feels great, you know, to have the opportunity,” Harris said. “I really enjoyed being up there (Monday). The school is in a great area where I could just focus and think basketball. It’s a great place with great facilities and coaches.”
It’s also a place that has a head coach in Dustin Kerns who has valued the kind of quality players that have come through Newton’s program over the years that Rasmussen has been at the helm.
“Coach Kerns was an assistant at Wofford and they offered guys from our program like Derrick Henry and Dre (Butler),” Rasmussen said. “They really wanted Dre, but of course he chose to play football. He’s really wanted one of our kids for a long time. A big part of it is he believes our kids are well prepared for the college level.”
Harris has been doing his part to show potential college suitors that he, indeed, is working to be college ready. He helped Newton to a 28-4 record during two solid weeks of summer camp basketball. Harris particularly impressed in a game with St. Francis on the main court at Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum where he scored 33 points and 13 boards.
He was also instrumental in helping the Rams repeat as champions of the Mercer University camp this past Friday. Rasmussen said he’s taking pleasure in watching him mature before his eyes. It’s more proof that Harris has become a bonafide college prospect.
“He’s gotten so much more mature on and off the court,” Rasmussen said. “He was definitely our most important player during the last couple weeks. He averaged a double-double pretty much the whole summer. No team could stop him. He’s really dug down deep in all areas and become a better young man, a better student and more serious.
“He’s learning the time to have fun and not have fun. He’s become our emotional leader. As he goes, we go. He’s really solidifying himself as a collegiate forward.”