Pharrel Payne, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound senior center/power forward from Park of Cottage Grove, committed to Minnesota Sunday after taking his official visit. Payne is the second commitment from the Class of 2022 for new Gopher head coach Ben Johnson.
Payne, who is considered one of the top big men in Minnesota in the Class of 2022, averaged 14.8 points per game this past year as a junior. He scored in double figures in 16 of 20 games, including a season-high 26 points versus Stillwater in the season opener.
Payne helped lead the Wolfpack to an 11-10 mark, losing to Rosemount 66-41 in the Class AAAA Section 3 title game.
GopherHole caught up with Payne Tuesday to learn the latest on his decision to commit to Minnesota.
GopherHole: You committed to Minnesota Sunday after taking your official visit this past weekend. What were the main factors in you deciding to becoming a Gopher?
Pharrel Payne: The main thing was I wanted to go somewhere where I was comfortable with the coaches. Second, I wanted to go somewhere where I was close to home. Third, mainly, wanted to go somewhere that my parents see fit and liked.
GopherHole: What has been the reaction from your friends and family since you committed?
Pharrel Payne: It’s been insane. Friends, family, community, saying congrats. It feels good.
GopherHole: I know that you just committed, but do you feel a bit of weight lifted off your shoulders?
Pharrel Payne: Yes, for sure.
GopherHole: You committed to your 17th birthday. Was that something that you had planned to do on your birthday or did it just happen?
Pharrel Payne: It just kind of happened.
GopherHole: What was the reaction from the Gopher coaches when you committed?
Pharrel Payne: You know Coach Thorson, he was everywhere. Super happy.
GopherHole: What was your official visit like? What all did you get a chance to see and do?
Pharrel Payne: It was great. I got to have lunch with the coaches. Got to tour the campus. Finally see Williams Arena. I also got to watch a girl’s volleyball scrimmage.
GopherHole: I know that they usually take you to some nice restaurants on your visit. Where did you get a chance to eat?
Pharrel Payne: For lunch, the first day, we ate Canes. Then for dinner the first day, we went to Benihana.
GopherHole: How did it feel to get the “red carpet” treatment?
Pharrel Payne: It feels good.
GopherHole: What schools were you down to you when you made your final choice?
Pharrel Payne: I was down to Loyola and the University of Minnesota.
GopherHole: How hard was it to tell Loyola no?
Pharrel Payne: It was pretty tough, because they felt like I would be good fit there.
GopherHole: Now that you have got this done, what things are you going to be working on to get ready for college?
Pharrel Payne: Just playing basketball. Getting stronger. Getting better.
GopherHole: I talked to Braeden Carrington and he said that one of the players that he was going to work on was you. Did he talk to you a lot about coming to Minnesota with him?
Pharrel Payne: Yes. He started like a week in advance, started talking to me like every other day. Convincing me why we could do it together. Frankly, he was telling me that there was no better fit than staying at home and playing in front of hometown fans would be a crazy experience that I wouldn’t want to miss out on.
GopherHole: I know that a lot of recruits are talking about the Name, Image and Likeness. Have you thought about how that might have an impact on you since you’re from this area?
Pharrel Payne: Not really.
GopherHole: Is there anyone that you are working on now? Joshua Ola-Joseph is visiting Minnesota this weekend. I know that Braeden was talking to him about Minnesota. Are you working on him or anyone else about coming to Minnesota?
Pharrel Payne: Oh, yes. I talked to him a little bit here and there.
GopherHole: What is it going to mean to you, now that you have seen Williams Arena, to walk on the court your first college game as a freshman in a little more than a year?
Pharrel Payne: It’s going to mean everything to me because that is going to be the start of my college career, especially that I get to do it at home, so to me, that means a lot to me.