By LARRY VAUGHT
During the recruitment of his twin sons, Aaron Harrison Sr. sometimes got labelled as being too controlling of the process. Instead, he merely says he was looking out for what was best for his son, Aaron and Andrew, before they finally committed to the University of Kentucky.
“People were reading way to much into my involvement,” said the players’ father, who was also their AAU coach. “I was looking out for my sons. That should be the ultimate goal for any father. I didn’t let people call my sons. No websites, no reporters, no newspapers. They didn’t have their phone numbers. I took a lot of pressure off them and handled those calls.
“When people don’t get what they want, sometimes they get upset. I am straight forward. Some people can’t handle that. I don’t play games with you.”
He’s glad Kentucky coach John Calipari is the same way.
“It is what it is. He is where he is and has his expectations for my son,” Harrison said. “I am more than okay with him not being easy on them. He told them it would be difficult at Kentucky. You will be able to get rewards and get better every day. That is all I wanted. Just a fair opportunity to get a free education and play basketball.”
Harrison knows about coaching talent. He had five players off his Texas AAU team sign Division I scholarships two years ago. He understands the recruiting process and how demanding it can be on players and what coaches will and will not tell players. He also knows how AAU sponsorships by shoe companies make some believe that influences where players go to school and many felt Maryland might be UK for the twins because of a shoe company connection.
“I try to make things happen in the right way for my kids and my sons were no different,” he said. “I’ve had kids who needed my help and asked questions and asked my opinion. Other kids don’t need that kind of help and guidance. I don’t need my sons to make money in the NBA. We will be fine whether they ever get professional check.
“There was no coach who did anything against NCAA rules with me or my sons. There were none. Some I may not have always agreed with morally or ethically, but nobody broke any rules.”
Aaron Harrison Sr. says his sons are like him in one way — they all love to win.
“Andrew is the one who is always thought to be the highest rated but it does not bother him who scores in a game at all. All he wants to do is win,” the father said. “If you win by 100 and he doesn’t score, he’s happy. Winning is a very big part of everything to him. Having the opportunity at Kentucky to play with kids on their level and not get 20 shots a game is not a big deal to either one of them.
“Just being able to play and not be double teamed is a big deal. They are going to have James Young with them. He’s probably 6-7 and has great skills. They are not going to be able to double team all three of them on the perimeter. They have added Marcus Lee. I am hoping Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon come, too. Then you have to guard everybody. It gives each player an opportunity to play as a team and win and show what he can do and not be a focal point of a defense.”
Aaron Harrison Sr. was also impressed with UK signee Derek Willis of Bullitt East when he was around him during his sons’ official visit on Big Blue Madness weekend.
“I talked to him more than any kid there. That is one tremendous kid,” Harrison Sr. said. “I have not had a chance to see him play, but I am going to do that (at the Marshall County Hoop Fest). Don’t underestimate what he brings to the table. He is a tremendous young man. I probably talked to him an hour and had a great conversation. He’s impressive.”
He says his sons are both “good kids” compared to how he might have been at the same age.
“I am from Baltimore and I was rough around the edges as a kid. I did a lot of stuff,” Harrison Sr. said. “They are kids. They make mistakes. They have missed curfew before, but it was when they fell asleep at a friend’s house. The friend’s mother called me and said they were sleeping. They always stay busy. They played football and even one year of baseball.”
The twins’ mother is not a “sports person” like others in the family.
“She could care less. She says they may get a chance to play professional basketball, but she cares more about them getting an education and being safe while they are there. Those were her concerns,” Harrison Sr. said. “She cares about them being around other good kids like they will be at Kentucky.”
When the Harrisons made their official visit to UK, both were in the gym late shooting each night. Yet when they came outside, UK fans were waiting for them.
“I had never experienced anything like that, either,” Harrison Sr. said. “I hope people will respect that they can’t always sign that many autographs. We were in a restaurant and a lady wanted them to act like they were giving her a kiss. They can’t do that.”
He knows Kentucky fans will want to see and talk to his sons at the Marshall County Hoop Fest Friday and Saturday in Benton. Their team will play each night.
“(Kentucky assistant) Coach Kenny Payne says it is going to be nuts. They may have to bring in security,” Harrison Sr. laughed and said. “That place is going to be rocking.”
He knows the “glass bowl” atmosphere his sons will endure at Kentucky, but says that is not as bad as some might believe.
“I think it’s actually a more secure spot for basketball players. They don’t live in apartments or co-ed dorms where girls would be everywhere,” Harrison Sr. said. “They live with other players in a lodge so you won’t have a lot of situations you might in apartments or other dorms. It might be a glass bowl, but it is a more secure glass bowl.”