Basketball, NCAA, Sports

Whyte and Harper forge long-lasting friendship on and off the court

Walter Whyte snagged a turnover and pushed the pace in transition. After rifling a pass up the court, his teammate Jonas Harper finished off the fast break with a lay-up to give the Boston University men’s basketball team a late 15 point advantage over Northern Illinois University on November 21.

The sequence was far from the first time the pair appeared side-by-side on a scoresheet. In fact, Whyte and Harper have been playing together for nearly a decade. 

harper and Whyte feature
Seniors Jonas Harper (left) and Walter Whyte (right). Boston University men’s basketball players Harper and Whyte have played basketball together since high school and have developed a lasting friendship both on and off the court. MOHAN GE/DFP STAFF (both photos)

Whyte transferred to St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, Connecticut during his sophomore year of high school in 2014. There, he met freshman Jonas Harper at the lunch table. Harper recalls his first conversation with his future teammate.

“He’s a pretty funny kid,” Harper said. “I remember I had some new shoes on that my dad got me and the first thing I remember him saying is he was clowning my shoes. Ever since then, we’ve been best of friends.”

Drew Gladstone, who coached St. Luke’s during Whyte and Harper’s tenure, recalled his front row seat to the blossoming friendship.

“I think what started as a big brother, little brother relationship matured into what it is today where both of those guys have each other’s backs, know what it takes to win, and hold each other accountable to that,” Gladstone sent in a text. 

Gladstone is now an assistant coach at Northern Illinois University, and was sitting on the Huskies’ bench as he watched Harper and Whyte combine to take down his team in November.

“It’s rare that guys value that bond and chose to stick together at the next level, so for me it’s a great source of pride and, outside of those guys beating [NIU] back in November, it’s been great to watch them and see their success,” Gladstone said. 

Both Whyte and Harper reminisced on cracking jokes, working out, going to team dinners, playing video games and, of course, playing basketball together.

“To get a bond stronger than just the court . . . that’s why I call him my brother,” Harper said. 

Whyte, the second-ranked recruit out of Connecticut, fielded a number of offers from Patriot League and Ivy League schools after his graduation in 2017. He chose BU because of his relationship with head coach Joe Jones, who he referred to as a “father figure.” 

“I wanted to go somewhere where the coaching staff was about bettering me as a person and they welcomed me with open arms,” Whyte said. “I felt like I could trust him.”

Whyte experienced an exemplary freshman season, scoring the fifth-most points on the team and receiving All-Conference Rookie Team honors. Meanwhile, Harper was finishing up his senior season at St. Luke’s before starting at BU the following fall. 

Harper recalls joking with Whyte on the phone about reuniting in college and when it finally came to fruition, it was “a blessing.”

Unfortunately, the pair’s on-court reunion at BU was delayed due to Whyte’s season-ending injury, which earned him a redshirt. This gave him the opportunity to watch Harper’s freshman season from the sidelines and offer encouragement.

“It was really good to watch because a lot of our people believed in his abilities and just watched him flourish into a great player his freshman year,” Whyte said. “I was proud.” 

In 2019 Harper and Whyte finally shared the hardwood for the first time in two years. Their mutual success contributed to the Terriers’ first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011 following the Patriot League Championship, although March Madness was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic two days after BU earned the banner.

That championship marked the third championship that Harper and Whyte won together, following two in high school.

“We got a good track record,” Whyte said. “I’m very happy that he was able to come here and we were able to win. That just solidified how good the tandem is.”

Both Harper and Whyte majored in sociology and say they are around each other all the time. This has allowed them to become more comfortable supporting each other and relying on each other if necessary.

“He definitely gets sick of me because I’m a little annoying brother,” Harper said with a laugh. “If I need something or if I need advice, he’s right there down the hall.” 

Next year, Harper and Whyte will be playing their last season, which could also be the last time they share the court together.

“It’s crazy to think about that,” Harper said. “It feels like I’ve played with him all my basketball career so I couldn’t imagine playing with any other teammate but him.”

Whyte wondered if the duo could play together even after they graduate from BU.

“We had the same kind of conversation in high school and it ended up being the same thing in college,” Whyte said. “We’ll go play pro overseas and what if we end up on the same team? That’d be pretty funny.”

After college, both players have aspirations of playing professional basketball. Harper also wants to work in the sports business world, whether it be in marketing or social media. Whyte wants to use his public health degree to “help underserved communities.”

Whether or not next season is the end of their seven years as teammates, Whyte and Harper are a powerful display of the neverending bonds that are formed on the basketball court.

“Regardless of wherever we’re playing, if we’re at different chapters of our life, that friendship will last a lifetime,” Whyte said.

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