By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Aaron Harrison isn’t worried about potential distractions next week when the Wildcats play a six-game exhibition schedule during the “Big Blue Bahamas” Tour.
“We’re just going to go out there and have fun,” Aaron said Wednesday. “We’re just going to worry about the games and not anything else.”
The team departs for the Nassau Friday and plays their first game Sunday. Aaron and Andrew Harrison will be the centerpiece, considering both players are returning for a second season with the Wildcats.
Aaron and brother Andrew Harrison opted against entering the NBA Draft and decided to come back for a second season. Aaron Harrison hit clutch game-winning shots during the team’s successful run through the NCAA Tournament that ended with a loss to Connecticut in the championship game.
“I know (the shots) were big moments in Kentucky basketball history, but the biggest thing for me is that we didn’t end the season like we wanted to,” he said. “Of course it was a great feeling to hit those big shots but that’s not really (what it’s about).”
Andrew Harrison admitted the twins were torn about coming back for a second season but couldn’t bypass a chance to compete for a national title, giving the team’s crop of returnees, coupled with the freshman class.
“It was tough,” Andrew said. “I just want to win a national championship and better myself.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said the twins had to “answer a lot of questions” if they decided to play for the Wildcats again and increase their professional stock. Andrew and Aaron accepted the challenge from their coach. Last year was a learning experience for both players and Andrew said they learned a lesson last season.
“It was just us realizing how much it takes to be great,” Andrew said. “It was (just) getting that confidence back that you had in high school.”
Among the changes during the offseason has been the pair’s body language, a consistent complaint, especially during the regular season. Aaron said the issue has been resolved and contributed the problem to the “ups and downs” of the game. Most NBA scouts also questioned whether both players were “athletic enough, or quick enough to guard the opposition.”
“Coming out of high school, (we were) not used to failing as much,” Aaron said. “We worked hard this summer to prove (we were athletic and quick enough).”
Andrew said the pair are comfortable now and ready to make a point this season, starting with the overseas exhibition tour. The improvement goes beyond skill level.
“I’m a lot more comfortable and I feel like I can take on a leadership role,” Andrew said. “I’m having fun with it. A lot of (the new) guys are asking questions and I try to help them as best as I can.”
Andrew tweaked his ankle in practice earlier this week, but on the mend and doesn’t expect to miss many of the exhibition contests. Andrew has lost 12 pounds since the end of last season and Aaron also has trimmed some weight.
“I’m just eating better,” Andrew said. “If you eat the wrong things, it’s not going to work, so I’ve been trying to eat a lot of green stuff and stuff like that. I’m a lot quicker and can play defense a lot better. I’m able to explode through the line.”
Like Andrew, Aaron also has stepped up his game and is more focused on the task at hand compared to a year ago.
“My body (is stronger) and I’m more athletic,” Aaron said. “We are mentally ready for practice when we go in every day and get better. That comes with being older and more mature. (We are) taking it more serious.”
Andrew added he has more speed and athleticism.
“I’m just trying to be the best player I can be,” Andrew said. “I’m a lot faster and a lot quicker. I’m jumping a little higher right now and I fee like I’m the best player I can be right now.”
In addition to the individual workouts during the offseason, Aaron said the practice sessions in preparation for the tour has paid dividends.
“I can already tell that’s going to help us when the season starts,” he said.