Destiny Pitts and Irene Garrido Perez traveled different paths to Minneapolis, but both have at least three things in common: basketball, Spanish and status as newcomers for the Golden Gophers. The two have been on campus for a month taking classes and practicing with their new teammates.
Pitts is a freshman from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, while junior Garrido comes from Granada, Spain, via Western Wyoming Community College. Both are new to the Division I level, but both bring valuable experience.
Pitts was the 2017 Michigan Class B AP Player of the Year. She played in three consecutive Michigan state title games, winning in 2015 and 2017.
“I think it helps a lot because it gives you an extra boost of confidence,” she said. “You’ve experienced a big game before.
Garrido spent the past two years at Western Wyoming Community College, where she earned all-region honors twice and led the Mustangs with a 13.6-point scoring average last season. She said her time there helped her adapt to the United States and the American college athletics experience.
The pace of the Big Ten level has been Pitts’ biggest challenge in Minneapolis, and Garrido said conditioning and weightlifting workouts have been more difficult than those of her previous teams. Both newcomers said they already feel stronger after a month as Gophers. Pitts said she feels her defense has improved, too.
“Those two have been outstanding in the classroom thus far,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “On the court and in the weight room and with the conditioning piece, that’s another big jump from their previous place. They made a big commitment to nutrition as well. We’re very pleased with the advancements they’re making.”
“It’s been easier with our teammates,” Garrido said. “They help us a lot.”
The newcomers had help finding classes on their first day. They have bonded with the returners on and off the court, including finding their way out of an “escape room” as a team outing.
“Coach Ralph (Petrella) has helped us eat healthier and taught us how to cook,” Pitts said. “He taught us how to shop efficiently. My roommates are Carlie (Wagner) and Jas (Brunson), and they’ve helped me a lot, seeing new places and giving me tips about homework and workouts. Coach Marlene took Irene and me out to get ice cream the first week we were here to welcome us here. I think that was important for us to be acclimated.”
Pitts said her teammates would probably describe her as “goofy and serious at the same time. I’m always laughing at something that’s not funny—not on the court, though.” Garrido said she is probably seen as shy and quiet because English is her second language. However, thanks to Pitts' diligence in Spanish class, she and Garrido have been able to hold bilingual conversations together.
“They make me a little nervous in practice when I don’t know what they’re saying sometimes,” Stollings joked. “No, I think it’s been really nice for those two to have fun speaking Spanish to one another. I think it’s really helped Irene with her transition.”
Both are looking forward to welcoming another Spanish speaker in freshman guard Paloma Gonzalez this fall. After seeing what the Twin Cities has to offer, including the strong support for women’s basketball they have already seen for the Lynx and their own program, Pitts and Garrido are excited to share the experience with another new Gopher.
What do you want to gain by attending the University of Minnesota and playing basketball for the Gophers?
IG: I want to gain my degree and the ability to push myself to be the best I can be and be prepared for the next level.
DP: I want to gain a different level of maturity, expand my perspective of different cultures, and be the best version of myself. Playing basketball for the Gophers I want to gain experience from opportunities that go way beyond basketball.
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