Conflicting Reports on Harrison Twins Triggers Fan DisagreementPosted by Chris Johnson on September 25th, 2012
Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
If you’ve never heard the names Andrew or Aaron Harrison, know this: They might be the best package deal in the history of modern basketball recruiting. Better than the Wear twins at UNC (now at UCLA), better than the Morris twins at Kansas; better than the Lopez twins at Stanford. Yes, the Harrison twins are elite talents who will have lasting impacts on the school that wins the intense bidding war for their services. As of this writing, three programs are in the mix – Kentucky, SMU and Maryland. It’s an eclectic group, but it requires no amount of in-depth background research to make sense of the twins’ final candidates. The Harrisons reside in Richmond, Texas, which makes their inclusion of SMU – a burgeoning program reinvigorated by its recent hiring of Hall of Famer Larry Brown, one of the best basketball coaches of all time, and its impending move to the Big East – completely reasonable. Maryland’s courtship hinges on two elements. The first is Aaron Harrison, Sr., who grew up in Baltimore, played basketball at nearby Patterson High School and is close friends with Terrapins assistant coach Bino Ranson. The second is coach Mark Turgeon, who recruited the Harrisons while he was at Texas A&M before accepting his current position at Maryland. As for Kentucky, well, at this stage of his tenure, John Calipari’s program essentially recruits itself. The Harrisons are expected to announce their decision on October 29, but with various information leaks and contradicting reports from different outlets, the speculative message board war has already begun in earnest.
On Saturday, ZagsBlog author Adam Zagoria cited an unnamed source “close to the recruitment” who characterized a difference of opinion on choice between the twins and their father. According to the source, the twins prefer Kentucky, while Aaron, Sr., hopes his sons end up at Maryland. In today’s world of college basketball recruiting, where fan bases frenetically scour national scouting sites, high school and grassroots leagues in the pursuit of knowledge about their programs’ targeted prospects, this kind of news – particularly when it comes in regard to a pair of players as talented and promising as the Harrison twins – sparked a firestorm of digital back-and-forth between rival supporters. A report from InsideMDSports.com amplified the ordeal with quotes from dad, who denied Zagoria’s claim and clarified his position. “Aaron and Andrew Harrison haven’t made a decision, and I want whatever they want for themselves,” he said. “Whatever they want is what I want.” Neutrality, at least from my distant vantage point, seems the more plausible scenario. Even if the twins’ father is partial to Maryland – a likely preference, given his history, ties to the area and relationships with coaches – it stands to reason that the Harrison twins, blue-chip prospects of their own making, would have more influence over their college choice than their father does. But my opinion doesn’t matter. Kentucky fans have already made up their mind. And as you might expect, they fully believe this is a one-horse race, one in which coach John Calipari has already vanquished all competition. UK blogger Truzenuzex at A Sea of Blue puts nail to head:
While the Terps fans have a right to be hopeful, I hope they won’t be too disappointed when the Harrisons take the floor in the Blue and White. That is the high probability, and history, and the power of Calipari’s winning personality and record of proven success are the reason. Turgeon has neither, and Maryland does not have the panache of Kentucky when it comes to basketball. No offense intended, just telling it like it is.*
*I fully recommend checking out the comments section on this post. You won’t be disappointed.
The way Coach Cal has plucked the upper echelon of high school talent over the last few years, it’s hard to criticize that line of thinking. You may not like Calipari’s tactics, or the one-and-done culture his method stands for, but you can’t deny the influence his system – corral the nation’s top high school players, develop and groom them into self-contained and coherent outfits, make deep NCAA Tournament runs, wash, rinse, repeat – affects elite prospects, nor can you criticize his tried and true NBA preparation process. It would come as no surprise if the Harrison twins land at Kentucky, or if they’ve already come to a conclusion on their joint commitment.
Whatever the outcome, this process speaks to the larger backdrop in which high-profile recruitments like the Harrisons’ take place. The seamless transitions and instant stardom of so many college freshmen has raised expectations for the nation’s best high school players. Last season, when Calipari’s freshmen-led team overcame old notions about needing experience and maturity in NCAA Tournament games, represented that breaking point. Fair or not, fans now expect elite prospects to step on campus fresh out of high school, embrace new teams, coaches and philosophies and immediately take their programs to the next level. Fans demand instant production and success. There is no developmental or maturation period; for the best high school talents, first impressions are the only ones that matter. It’s a philosophy that draws strong parallels to the growing spotlight on recruiting, where prospects are tracked through AAU circuits even before they reach high school. It also explains the magnified coverage surrounding the Harrisons’ recruitment. Both Maryland and Kentucky both know the uplifting impact these players will have (or they think they’ll have) on their programs, and know the implications of landing two transcendent prospects for the price of one in this show-me-now era. Fans of the two programs are wired in, and it’s hard to blame them.