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By LARRY VAUGHT
Aaron Harrison Sr. started taking his twins sons, Aaron and Andrew, to the gym at an early age and it left an impression on them. “He instilled a lot of mental toughness in us,” said Aaron Harrison during last weekend’s Marshall County Hoop Fest when the Texas twins helped Travis High School beat Ballard and Madison Central. “He always told us to reach hard and we could reach our potential. He was definitely hard on us. He does have a military background, but that was good for us.”
Andrew Harrison agreed.
“He is not like most parents. He did not try to be our best friend. He taught us to respect authority, clean up our own room. We did whatever he said, and still do,” Andrew Harrison said.
The twins are ranked among the nation’s top five players and both guards signed with Kentucky in November.
Aaron Harrison Sr. came to Benton with the team and offered his impressions on the Hoop Fest experience, ability of his sons, UK coach John Calipari and more.
Question: Was the atmosphere at the Marshall County Hoop Fest good for your sons to experience?
Harrison: “They have always played in front of crowds like this. They were both pretty good at a young age. At like the 10 and under nationals, there were probably 3,000 people there to watch them play that game. They have had games over the years like the Texas state semifinal and in the final game last year they played in front of 16,000 to 18,000 there. They have had experiences like this with crowds, but this is a little unusual. Small town feel with big crowd.”
Question: What about the constant autograph and picture requests from UK fans of all ages?
Harrison: “That is something that they are getting used to. It is happening at home more now or around the airports when they travel. They kind of understand that is part of it. To who much is given, much is expected. They have been given a lot and blessed a lot and they understand that is how it is.”
Question: Do they normally not show a lot of emotion on the court?
Harrison: “We work on that. People used to say that they showed too much emotion. We work on that. That is something we work on and as you grow up you mature and deal with those things.”
Question: Can you relax and enjoy just watching your sons play?
Harrison: “They are kids. I am intense. It’s not like watching and enjoying a game. I want them to make every shot, make every pass, play defense right which we all know is impossible in a basketball game. But because they are my kids, I am trying to get them to that point.”
Question: Why do they enjoy their teammates so much?
Harrison: “Nathan (Bertness) doesn’t play, but he is on the team and he is best friends with both of them. The other kids are guys from fourth, fifth and sixth grade that they met then. Instead of going to one of these mega team like other guys are doing, it gives them a chance to enjoy their childhood before they get to the point that they can’t. That’s what they enjoy. Those kids don’t want anything from them. There are no enemies, no jealousy. They all just want to win.”
Question: Do your sons always share the ball so well with their teammates?
Harrison: “They only want to win. If it takes scoring 50 points to win, they take it. If it takes one point to win, that’s fine.”
Question: What do you like best about John Calipari?
Harrison: “He’s straight forward like me. He is going to tell you how it is. He didn’t promise them anything, tell them they would be stars. He told them if they wanted to come to Kentucky, it would not be easy and would be tough. If you have dreams of playing professional basketball, we can help you get to that point.”
Question: Are your sons’ games back in Texas as intense as the one against Ballard in the Marshall County Hoop Fest?
Harrison: “They have to understand that. No matter where we play, it is their Super Bowl. They played against a kid, Quentin Snider who is going to Louisville and he’s really good. But the guys said he played the game of his life against them. That happens. He didn’t have to guard them back. His team was superior to our team. He shot well and played well, but he didn’t have to have the challenge of trying to guard them back. But they are used to that.”
Question: Do your sons get a chance to do anything other than school and basketball, or do they want to?
Harrison: “That’s why basketball is like that. They hang out with friends on the basketball team. That’s what they like. Those are their guys. Their group of friends are their high school team and their summer team. Those are there two groups of friends. They don’t really have a circle outside of that. They don’t need it. They like being with their guys.”
Question: Have they always been at ease with the media like they seem to be now?
Harrison: “In the seventh grade they had an interview and it didn’t go very well and I let them watch it about a hundred times. They said they never wanted to do that again. We have taken time to kind of go through that and make sure that they understand and enjoy what is happening and what goes on with the media.”
Question: Is there anything you have left to chance with their careers?
Harrison: “They have been blessed. I have been blessed. They are very good young men. They have taken the time to take to the things their mother has given them and God has given them to try and become better people. At that point, you try to put it all together. You wish you had an exact formula to make a good young man but you just do the best you can.”