Shortly after 5 p.m. ET Thursday live on ESPNU, the collegiate intentions of twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Richmond, Texas/Travis High) will be known and the rampant speculation will cease. Until then, the watercooler rumors and soothsayers will have their time.
When you think about it, there are two distinct programs in play here in Kentucky and Maryland. At the end of the day, the culmination of each team's recruiting pitch is similar. These kids are going to be successful for a brief time in college and both will be NBA players. The pitch to the boys centers around being as successful as possible for the brief time they’re in college. No one’s kidding themselves here.
However, Kentucky and Maryland do come at the recruitment from different angles.
The twins' father, Aaron Sr., has been a major figure in this recruitment because he has kept everything orderly, been vigilant with the dissemination of information and been a protector of his sons during the process. He’s kept a firm hand on the process while allowing the schools to forge relationships with his sons and recruit them within the confines of a structured, orderly recruitment. If every recruiting situation were handled in this manner, most colleges would sign up in an instant.
“We know who we are,” Aaron Sr. said. “At the end of the day, this is Aaron and Andrew’s decision. We are totally comfortable with these schools.”
There are only two things that would surprise a national TV audience if they happened on Thursday. One would be if the twins split up and each went to a different school. That’s not happening. The other would be if SMU were able to spring the upset. Larry Brown has much respect from the Harrison family, but SMU landing the pair would be a gigantic surprise.
Kentucky is the king of college basketball recruiting, and rarely has John Calipari lost a recruiting battle since taking over in 2009. UCLA tripped him up last year, but he’s been Pete Rose when it comes to hitting with recruits. This one is another heat check for the Wildcats.
Maryland is a steady riser on the national recruiting circuit. Mark Turgeon is constructing a championship-caliber program in College Park. In the process, he’s won key battles and missed on potential targets -- but overall he’s ahead of schedule. A win here would put the Terrapins in a different position from a national recruiting perspective.
For a moment, let's put ourselves in the shoes of the Harrison twins and look at the decision. We’ll start with Maryland, but when you say Maryland, you’re really talking about Turgeon. He’s been on the twins for six years, and most of the time he was recruiting them for Texas A&M.
The following are the nuts and bolts of the relationships between the players and the two schools that have emerged as the favorites:
• Turgeon’s pursuit began in the seventh grade when the twins attended Texas A&M’s Junior Elite Camp.
• There is a six-year relationship between the family and Turgeon.
• The Terps have Shaquille Cleare, a friend and former AAU teammate on the roster.
• Aaron Sr. is a native of Baltimore; mom is from Texas.
• The twins' grandparents reside in Baltimore.
• Maryland assistant Bino Ranson and the Harrisons' father have a strong relationship and common friends in Baltimore.
• The twins would give the Terps a legitimate claim to be a national title contender.
• Maryland and Turgeon have years of having the situation essentially surrounded.
• Turgeon picked up huge street cred in Houston when he brought the entire A&M team to the funeral of Tobi Oyedeji, a former A&M signee who died in a car accident. Turgeon’s handling of the situation made a big impression on the entire Harrison family.
• The Maryland staff did not miss a single game in the summer and often went three deep with coaches.
• Turgeon spent the first and last day of the July period with the twins.
• Their recruitment is centered around a longstanding relationship with roots in Texas.
• Turgeon has put players in the NBA himself.
• Maryland wears Under Armour, the same company that sponsors the twins' AAU team.
• A last-minute home visit was scheduled prior to news of the announcement.
• Kentucky began recruiting the twins as ninth-graders.
• The Wildcats have a 3 1/2-year relationship with the family.
• Aaron Sr. has known Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland since he was 20 years old.
• Calipari has coached 15 NBA players since he arrived at Kentucky in 2010.
• Of those 15 NBA draft picks, 11 have been first-rounders and two have been No. 1 overall picks.
• Kentucky is the undisputed home of the one-and-done player.
• The Wildcats are the defending national champions.
• Calipari often tells recruits that Kentucky is not an easy choice and is a tough place to go because of intense competition, but he also says it’s where you go if you want to be the best.
• Kentucky went three deep with coaches once Calipari returned from coaching the Dominican Republic national team this summer.
Both programs have been all in and never wavered on their targets. For Kentucky, that has meant not offering another point guard in the 2013 class. The Wildcats looked at Demetrius Jackson and investigated Xavier Rathan-Mayes but never offered either one. Maryland was in a tougher spot. Local top-50 recruit Roddy Peters is fond of the Terps, so they’ve had to gingerly handle his situation.
What we’re looking at is a pair of different choices. These kids are professional basketball players sooner than later no matter which school they attend. However, the decision pits the nation’s most prolific program in terms of cranking out pros against a program and coach that founded its recruitment on a rock-solid relationship. While the Terrapins might be best served to tug at the twins' hearts, UK’s approach has been pragmatic in that it has the blueprint for future success. Two different people with the same genes and different positions and personalities are done evaluating two different programs.
Make no mistake about it -- this announcement affects the landscape of college basketball. We’re talking about the No. 1 point guard and No. 1 shooting guard in the country announcing on the same day for the same team. It’s a decision that has far-reaching implications.