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By LARRY VAUGHT
While others were trying to decipher all the factors that might determine where Andrew and Aaron Harrison would play their college basketball, the Texas twins apparently were not worried about ties with shoe companies, family ties and long-time connections with any coach.
Instead, the twins picked Kentucky over Maryland where they have family living, have known coach Mark Turgeon since his Texas Tech coaching days and have ties to Maryland sponsor UnderArmour through their AAU play.
And what made them pick Kentucky?
“We liked coach (John) Calipari’s fire to win and we want to win a national championship,” Andrew said after making the announcement on ESPNU during a ceremony at their high school.
“Also, coach Calipari did not guarantee anything and we liked that,” Aaron said.
Simple right? The twins wanted to win a national title, not worry whether they work Nike or UnderArmour sneakers. They wanted to compete in practice daily with the top-tier recruits Calipari gets every year rather than knowing they would be the stars of the team immediately.
“Coach Calipari presented a challenge for us … he would push us every day,” Andrew said. “We just want to be better players.”
That’s exactly what Calipari has done for top recruits such as John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague in recent years. He did the same for Patrick Patterson, Deandre Liggins and Josh Harrellson. Why wouldn’t the Harrisons think he could do the same for them? In three seasons at UK, Calipari has had 15 players selected in the NBA draft, including five in the first round in 2010 and the top two picks in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist last year.
And wouldn’t you have liked to have been with ESPN analyst and former Indiana coach Bobby Knight when the Harrisons’ mother, Marian, said she liked the grade-point average of former UK players after he joked two years ago that UK players did not even go to class.
“The GPA of the players that went to the NBA was great, and they are continuing to work toward getting their degrees,” she said at the signing ceremony.
The Harrisons are the highest-rated basketball twins ever to come out of high school. Andrew is the top point guard and No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, while Aaron is the No. 4 overall player and top-rated shooting guard in the country. Even if Kentucky signs no one other than Bullitt East commit Derek Willis to go along with the Harrisons, Calipari could still have a fifth straight No. 1 recruiting class.
But there’s no way UK won’t add other stars.
One could be Texas power forward Julius Randle, who made his official visit to UK the same weekend all the former Cats now in the NBA were on campus. He cut his list of schools to six this week and UK is one of the six.
He posted this on twitter after the Harrisons picked Kentucky: “Congrats to my bros @DrewRoc5 & @AaronICE2.”
Other top players such as Marcus Lee, James Young and Aaron Gordon could want to join the Harrisons at UK. So might Andrew Wiggins, a junior at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep who might reclassify to the 2013 recruiting class. Rather than pat himself on the back for landing the Harrisons, Calipari was in Huntington Thursday night with assistant coach Kenny Payne watching Wiggins and talented teammates practice.
But no matter what the others do, Calipari has his 2013-14 backcourt secure with the Harrisons even if both Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin leave after this season and already has UK fans thinking 2014 Final Four before this season even starts.