CoachCal.com has been doing exclusive player profiles on the 2013 signees for a good while now and after reading up on Andrew and Aaron Harrison, it’s safe to say that the Kentucky Wildcats will be alright. Yes, I understand that they haven’t actually played one second of a game here. They haven’t even officially practiced as we think of practice. Much of what we’ve heard about, outside of their ability, is their attitude. After reading Eric Lindsey’s interview with the twins, it appears as though this already historic team will be the most lethal in college basketball. And that’s not hyperbole. Ok, maybe a little but you get the idea.
After a summer full of questions – there were message board rumors as to whether the Harrisons would be eligible since they weren’t on campus yet – Andrew and Aaron Harrison arrived last week to calm those fears and signal the start of a potentially promising 2013-14 season.
The twins – eligible and eager to begin their UK careers – are here.
Julius Randle is what Coach Cal describes as an “alpha male,” a killer who can take the game over and a leader who will drag his teammates, but Calipari may have struck gold this year with a couple of others. They just happen to be cut from the same cloth.
Known throughout basketball circles as two of the most competitive players to step on the court – talk with them a couple of minutes and it becomes clear how much they loathe losing – the Harrison twins are expected to add key ingredients that last year’s team lacked, particularly in the backcourt.
Andrew Harrison became the point guard of the twins sort of by chance. His father had him bring the ball up the court in elementary school, and he’s been doing it ever since.
“I think our biggest trait is our mental strength and our toughness, physically and mentally,” Andrew said in an exclusive interview with CoachCal.com. “A lot of people have talent, but what sets the great players apart is the toughness and their willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes to win.”
Rather than try to shield them from the potential potholes and traps, Aaron Harrison Sr. taught his sons how to ride through them and how to pick themselves up when they tripped over one.
“We grew up in a suburb town, and every time we would go into the city, people would try to take advantage of us,” Andrew said. “My dad always taught me to stand up for myself. No matter who it is, you’ve got to go at it as hard as you can, so I feel like you just have to be fearless on the court and win at all costs.”
(That win-at-all costs mentality grew to be a part of the Harrisons’ reputation, and spilled over to gossip that Randle didn’t want to play with them. As everyone would later find out, the rumors proved to be just that as Randle signed on to play at Kentucky. All parties say they’ve always been friends and are looking forward to playing with each other. “I think just our competitiveness on the court (started that),” Andrew said. “We’re pretty good friends. I can’t wait to play with him.”)
In high school and AAU, they fueled each other to push just a little bit more. When the other one had the hot hand, the other twin kept feeding him. When things weren’t going so well, the other one was stepping up, playing harder and letting the opponent know he had another Harrison to deal with.
“We both expect perfection out of each other,” Andrew said. “We definitely push each other to be the best.”
On the floor, their games certainly have their similarities and differences. Both are strong, ultra-competitive guards who like to get to the rack, but some facets of their game flourish more than others.
Andrew’s the point guard; Aaron’s the shooting guard. Andrew’s the distributor; Aaron’s the scorer. Andrew’s got the better handles; Aaron’s got the better long-range shot.
Both can alternate positions when need be, but Andrew became the point guard in elementary school when his dad had him bring the ball up the court.“Aaron is more of a scoring guard who can make shots and make plays at the rim. He can also play some point in a pinch. Like his brother, Andrew, he has the ability to physically dominate the opponent.” – Coach Cal
“We were both wings at first, or twos and threes, but we had a little point guard on our team that kept getting trapped with the ball and couldn’t see over the top,” Andrew said. “One day my dad, in like fifth grade, let me bring it up and I was able to throw it over the top. It just stuck like that.”
And while it’s still to be determined what everyone’s role on the team will be this year, chances are the Harrisons will be doing a lot of the leading.
“I definitely think me and Andrew are going to be vocal leaders on the team and push everybody and just lead by example,” Aaron said.
The twins are indeed here and order seems to be restored, but they said the only thing they can promise with their arrival is that they will work diligently to add a toughness that last year’s team seemed to lack.
“People expect us to come here and be great players and have high expectations, so we’ve got to come in here and work hard and fulfill expectations,” Andrew said. “If we win the national championship, we’ve succeeded, but working hard is all we can promise people.”
While it is certainly true that both John Calipari and Rick Pitino have had their share of “blue chip” recruits over their careers, it’s not too difficult to rank the best of the best for either coach. ESPN’s Eammon Brennon took at shot at ranking Rick Pitino’s Top 10 as his induction into the Hall of Fame looms large this weekend. Check out the list and a few excerpts.
1. Jamal Mashburn, Kentucky: On Tuesday, I wrote that Tarkanian’s No. 1 player, Larry Johnson, was a lock at the top before my fingers even hit the keyboard. Pitino’s No. 1 is not nearly as certain. Still, while Mashburn didn’t win a national title like his successors on this list, he was as gifted and productive an individual talent as Pitino ever coached at the college level — averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 37.6 percent from 3 and 51.6 percent from the field in his three seasons at Kentucky. In 1992-93 — one year after Kentucky’s destined-to-be-replayed-forever loss to Christian Laettner and the Duke Blue Devils — Mashburn averaged 21 points on 15.5 shots (and 8.4 rebounds) per game, and was rewarded with a First-Team All-American honor and the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft. He might not have been the world-devouring monster that Johnson was, at least relative to the rest of Pitino’s talent, but I think he deserves the top nod.
2. Tony Delk, Kentucky: And, having said all that, I would have absolutely no problem if you chose to rank Delk No. 1 instead, as Myron did. Delk’s statistics (14.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals) during his four-year UK career don’t look as impressive as Mashburn’s three-year run, but that’s less a product of Delk’s ability than the immensely balanced group of future pros he led to the national title in 1996. He might well have been the best player on that 1996 team; he was certainly its most important, an undisputed team leader that got a large group of future pros to coalesce around Pitino’s desire to unleash all that talent in a concerted, balanced, full-court-pressing behemoth. Delk’s defense (also something that doesn’t show up much in old box scores) was truly fearsome, and his best performances came at the best times.
3. Antoine Walker, Kentucky: Given Walker’s future as a swaggering, shimmying, well-paid 3-point chuck, it’s hard to grasp the fact that he shot just .188 percent from 3 in 1995-96 — and attempted a mere 48 3-pointers in the first place. Even crazier? Despite that lowly figure, Walker finished the 1995-96 season with averages of 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per. Even crazier? Delk averaged 17.8, Walter McCarty averaged 11.3, Derek Anderson averaged 9.4, Ron Mercer averaged 8.0, Mark Pope averaged 7.6, Anthony Epps averaged 6.7 … I mean, has there ever been a deeper, more balanced national title team? The mind boggles, and now we’re digressing again, and anyway: If Delk was the stoic senior leader, Walker (then a sophomore) was the young hotshot. Both were equally important to Pitino’s first national title run.
4. Ron Mercer, Kentucky: This is where things start to get a little bit hilarious with the mid-90s Wildcats: Ron Mercer a guy who would put up 18.1/5.3/2.4/1.7 averages as a First Team All-American in 1996-97 and go on to have a totally respectable, lengthy and profitable NBA career, was UK’s fifth banana as a freshman in 1995-96. That’s, like, borderline unfair. Mercer’s excellence after the national title season helps elevate him in this list, and frankly only adds to the mystique involved with that 34-2 national title run.
5. Billy Donovan, Kentucky
6. Derek Anderson, Kentucky: The 6-foot-5 guard’s supporting role in 1995-96 might have been enough to get him on this list in the first place, but his breakout follow-up was cut short when an injury ending his season after just 19 games. And even so, Anderson made his mark, shooting 40.4 from 3 and 81.1 percent from the free throw line and averaging 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.9 steals. His overall Kentucky legacy could have been something even greater, but maybe it’s even more impressive that he was able to accomplish so much in just a season and a half.
7. Sean Woods, Kentucky: Younger fans might know Woods best from his unfortunate handling of one of his Morehead State players last November, or maybe for the criticism he took for his (prophetic-in-retrospect) blasting of the 2012-13 Wildcats’ “sense of entitlement.” But before all that, Woods was (and is) a Kentucky legend, part of the “Unforgettables” group that played through three years of Eddie Sutton-era sanctions, resurrected UK basketball in the process. His retired No. 11 hangs from the Rupp Arena rafters for good reason: In just 91 games, Woods handed out 482 assists — fifth all-time at Kentucky, and the highest per-game average (5.3) of any Wildcat ever. Woods was nearly a March Madness legend, too. His 10-foot floater with 2.1 seconds left in overtime against Duke in the 1992 Elite Eight should have sealed the Unforgettables’ Final Four bid. Instead, Laettner made The Shot, and Woods’ magnificent performance became a historical footnote. Even so, it’s impossible to understate just how important Woods’ career was.
8. Russ Smith, Louisville
9. Wayne Turner, Kentucky: Another of those relatively unsung 1990s UK guys that were nonetheless really, really good (word to Anthony Epps, Jamaal Magloire and Travis Ford), Turner played in a then-record 151 total collegiate games for the Wildcats and finished his career with 494 career assists (fourth-most in school history) and 238 steals (No. 1 at UK all-time). Turner only played two seasons for Pitino before the Celtics came a’calling, but he was a major reason Pitino’s then-revolutionary all-hands-on-deck full court pressure worked in the first place.
10. Francisco Garcia, Louisville
To get a little taste of what you can be expecting to see this upcoming season, feast your eyes on this little video. Rewind. Repeat.