There were eight games left in Jimmy Staiti’s high school basketball career, and the West Forsyth senior forward still had no scholarship offers to play in college.
“It was a clock,” Staiti said, “and time was running out.”
Turns out there was just enough time: Staiti verbally committed to the University of North Carolina-Pembroke this past Saturday, telling Braves head coach Ben Miller in his office while on a visit.
Staiti said he plans to sign in early April, at which point he’ll join a UNC Pembroke team that is currently the No. 17-ranked Division II program in the country.
“The most important thing for me was getting a good education, and the school there fits me academically,” Staiti said. “And then I wanted to be around coaches that cared about everything, not just how you play, but care about your success off the court. … They really do care. They’re great people. That helped me make my decision.”
UNC Pembroke found Staiti by accident, he said. Staiti was at a Big Shots showcase tournament in Myrtle Beach this past July with the North Georgia Heat. Miller and Braves assistant coach Drew Richards were too. They walked into the gym where Staiti and the Heat were playing, looking to scout another player. Instead, they saw the 6-foot-3 forward.
Staiti was in the midst of one of his trademark games – diving for loose balls, cleaning up offensive rebounds for put-backs, hustling on every possession. It’s the formula that helped him eclipse 1,000 points in his career at West and average 17.4 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game this past season.
Staiti said Miller and Richards were impressed. They stayed to watch the rest of Staiti’s games with the Heat in the tournament. But they didn’t offer Staiti until Jan. 16, after the Wolverines’ 58-52 loss at North Forsyth.
No matter. Getting to commit in person to Miller this past Saturday made it worth the wait.
“It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life,” Staiti said.