Compiling The Best Fan Reaction To The Harrisons’ Commitment

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 5th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

One of the more ballyhooed recruitments came to a close Thursday night in rather predictable fashion. For the Harrison twins – two sublimely-talented backcourt dynamos ranked No. 1 at their respective positions in the 2013 class who packaged their decision and thereby created arguably the most enticing recruiting deal in college hoops history – there was never really any doubt. Because when John Calipari throws his hat in the ring, few players resist his pursuit. Calipari’s track record speaks for itself: Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague. Those are just point guards, all of them first-round products of Calipari’s systematic year-long seminar in NBA preparation. The Harrisons, I’d wager, fancy themselves NBA players. By that standard alone, Kentucky was the right pick. It was the only pick.

The long-awaited conclusion to the Harrison’s recruitment brought great news to Kentucky fans (Photo credit: David J. Philip/Associated Press).

Maryland fans will grumble at this missed opportunity. Landing the Harrisons would have turbo-buttoned Mark Turgeon’s rebuilding effort into a full-on College Park Renaissance, a streamlined path to the halcyon days of perennial ACC and national contention. But the fact Turgeon was able to stay in the race so long, that Calipari, the nation’s resident blue-chip pick-pocketer was nearly robbed of one of his top targets, is a huge victory in and of itself. All in all, this is a minor road bump in an otherwise steady rebuilding process for the Terrapins. Sealing the deal on the Harrisons would have accelerated that process considerably, but the programmatic avenues this high-profile recruitment revealed – Under Armour’s (and UM alum CEO Kevin Plank’s) growing presence on the grassroots scene, the nationally-propagated impressions left by Aaron Harrison, Sr., of Turgeon and the coaching staff, Turgeon’s meticulous approach and resolute drive to stave off other powerful programs, to go 12 rounds with the unassailable recruiting heavyweight – could steer the once-averse eyes of other elite recruits towards this emerging ACC contender. Not all is lost, Terps fans.

Notions of Caliparian recruiting dominance and the one-and-done system he so flawlessly manipulates will be rightfully invoked. Analysis of Kentucky’s future will reach its saturation point. Some have already raised the prospect of 2013 being the Wildcats’ best recruiting class ever. But before we get there, before the Harrisons inhabit the most familial and relatedly prolific backcourt in recent history, let’s take a moment to appreciate some of college hoops nation’s reaction. Over the course of the one-and-done era, as upper-echelon high school players and McDonald’s All-Americans entered the college game with greater expectations, shorter college career lengths and a greater potential for immediate contribution, recruiting coverage soared. Fans feverishly scour ranking sites like Scout and Rivals. They watch high school tapes and analyze AAU tournaments, the recruiting fever encroaching on new levels of college hoops hysteria. It also makes much-ballyhooed recruitments like the Harrisons an entertaining observatory affair on blogs, message boards, forums and, last but hardly not least, Twitter (the instantaneous micro-blogging service, replete with 140-character limits, topic-aggregating hashtags and spread-around retweet function, is a gold mine for digitally-consolidated recruiting-reaction gems from crazed college basketball fans). The Harrisons’ recruitment spread around the web like wildfire – not just after the decision, but the anticipatory lead-up to the 5 PM ESPNU announcement special. The following is my humble attempt to assemble three eye-grabbing social media samples from each viewpoint. Both the Victors (Kentucky) and the not-quite-as-fortunate-but-still-awfully-impressive Losers (Maryland) had interesting takes on the choice.

Maryland

Disappointment is a common theme, which, even for a middle-of-the-pack ACC program like Maryland, is understandable, all things considered. The various connections and commitments developed between player(s) and program over Turgeon’s six-year dalliance cast a suspenseful aura over the Harrison’s decision-making process, right up until Aaron Harrison ended the speculation – even with Calipari throwing the full-court press on the highly-touted twins. In the end, it wasn’t enough, and UM fans are bummed.

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https://twitter.com/paularo75/status/253988628378832896

There were rumblings – the likes of which credible, legitimate sources gave credence to in advance of Thursday’s decision – that Under Armour and the deep ties it forged with the Harrisons’ AAU team (also sponsored by UA) was heavily involved in the Harrisons’ recruitment. This bitter Maryland fan apparently believed those rumblings, and he’s not too happy the highly-touted duo won’t be suiting up in the Terrapins’ infamously wacky UA-custom Maryland Pride threads in 2013-14.

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mrogers102: Rumor is the price on these guys was 500k per kid. And Kentucky plays ball.

Comment sections normally offer up some fascinating fan commentary, and mrogers102 didn’t hold back on the Washington Post’s brief write-up on the announcement. With or without evidence, any fanbase whose program loses a recruit to Calipari will pull out the overly-cliched “He’s a cheater!” ruse. It’s a common ploy, and not at all unexpected, but I’m beginning to wonder if those rumors, provided Calipari maintains a clean record, will ever be put to rest.

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There’s no single one-liner to pinpoint here, but I strongly encourage you read this report in The Baltimore Sun, which details the gathering and inevitable disappointment of UM students at a nearby pub for the announcement. If you ever wanted an illuminating window into today’s recruiting fandom, the intensity with which fans of elite programs approach the practice – I’ve yet to see one better than this.

A sample:

As the word “Kentucky” spilled out of Aaron Harrison’s mouth during a live broadcast on ESPNU, the packed bar let out a shared groan. Some shouted expletives, some rushed out, others buried their faces into their hands.  One girl took off her glasses to stop the tears from forming.

Kentucky

As you might expect, fans of the #BBN were giddy over Calipari’s latest prize. These are die-hard supporters in a basketball-crazed state; recruiting grabs as big as the Harrisons’ count as massive news.

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Give Me Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins & Kennedy Meeks With The Harrison Twins And I Am Satisfied.

Let Young & Parker Team Up At Mich St So We Can Have A Decent Championship Game In 2013-14.

PG: Andrew Harrison

SG: Aaron Harrison

SF: Andrew Wiggins

PF: Julius Randle

C: Kennedy Meeks

Give Me That Lineup And Im Satisfied.

by RIP SEAN TAYLOR 21 on Oct 4, 2012 8:51 PM EDT reply 

(A Sea of Blue)

You see, this is the thing about Kentucky and the monumentally-high bar Calipari has set for himself: fans are already looking for the next blue-chipper to pledge his allegiance. The Harrisons were a valuable pick-up, but nothing short of the above dream lineup will satisfy UK fans’ insatiable quench for recruiting dominance. Coach Cal has his work cut out for him. Just For the record – small forward Andrew Wiggins, center Kennedy Meeks and power forward Julius Randle (all 2013 prospects except Wiggins (who may re-classify there), the same class as the Harrisons) have all reportedly expressed interest in UK.

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https://twitter.com/MikeGillie14/status/254023671478378496

The question he poses is beside the point. Calipari’s process is a self-fulfilling prophecy, one MKG understands better than me or anyone who hasn’t experienced the one-year high school-to-NBA joyride many of his recruits experience. No, the crux of that Tweet is Gilchrist’s hashtagged phrase. If Calipari keeps this up a few more years, the bestowing of that title won’t be arguable. He may have earned it already.

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Calipari has provided us with a lot of good days as Kentucky basketball fans since his arrival in Lexington. Today was not a good day. Today was a golden day. Today was one of the handful of days since he’s been here that falls into the “golden day” category, especially when narrowed down even more specifically to recruiting news. Every recruit who has committed during the Calipari era has been exciting. He simply doesn’t go after many who are anything but the best. During his Kentucky career thus far though, Calipari has had 3 days that I would consider “golden.” The commitments on these 3 days did not simply mark the possibility of a #1 recruiting class, or the commitment of another McDonald’s All-American/5-star recruit. The commitments on these 3 days signaled a distinct possibility, a feeling that simply can’t be denied, that Kentucky will soon be making another run at a national title. Every year since Calipari’s arrival has provided Kentucky with a shot at a national championship, without question. But the verbal today from the Harrison Twins has set the ball in motion for what is shaping up to be a very, very special season in 2014. First it was John Wall (golden day #1). Then it was Anthony Davis (golden day #2) and today it was Andrew and Aaron Harrison (golden day #3).  Enjoy it, folks.

When the blogosphere crafts a designated label for days with major commitments during Calipari’s tenure, you know this is not new territory for Wildcats fans. Still, its inclusion in the “Golden” category points to the profound rippling effects the Harrisons purport to generate during their stay in Lexington. Even by Calipari’s standards, this is a remarkable achievement. UK fans hold their head coaches to a steep grading curve of consistent success, but it seems even the most ardent Wildcats diehards have come to appreciate their leading-edge head coach.

Chris Johnson (290 Posts)

My name is Chris Johnson and I'm a national columnist here at RTC, the co-founder of Northwestern sports site Insidenu.com and a freelance contributor to SI.com.


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