The Harrison Twins have come to a final decision on their college future, but only they know whether the destination will be Kentucky, Maryland or the ultimate underdog in SMU.
Even their father, Aaron Harrison Sr., is in the dark about their decision.
“I guess they have (decided),” Harrison Sr. tells the Herald Leader’s Ben Roberts. “We have an agreement, basically, that they will just say it on TV and everyone will be surprised and I’ll leave it alone.”
Aaron and Andrew are set to announce their final decision during a ceremony in their Travis (Texas) High School Gym on Thursday at 5 pm ET on ESPNU.
Kentucky fans have worried that Harrison Sr.’s ties to Maryland and his affinity for coach Mark Turgeon may ultimately steer his sons to the Terrapins, but their father adamantly denies any attempts on his part to sway their decision one way or the other.
“I’m their father. I’m still not going to send them somewhere they don’t want to go,” he tells Roberts. “Yes, I could say, ‘Son, you’re going to school here.’ Never. They would say, ‘Daddy, we object.’ They’ll be 18 next month. I think me and my wife have done a good job turning them into young men. They have good, sound judgement and good morals. Most people don’t know stuff. They say stuff, but they don’t know stuff.”
Likewise, much has been made of the Twins’ connection to Under Armour and their subsequent affiliation with Maryland—and rightfully so.
Under Armour not only sponsors Maryland’s basketball team, but also the AAU team for which Harrison Sr. coaches and his sons play.
Additionally, there is a very strong connection between the Harrisons and Chris Hightower, who heads up Under Armour’s basketball marketing. Hightower, a Maryland alumnus, is the only person outside of the prospective college coaches with access to the Harrison twins’ cell numbers.
“He is the one guy who can call Aaron and Andrew,” Harrison Sr. tells USA Today ‘s Eric Prisbell. “They text him, ‘Hey, Chris, appreciate what you sent us, thanks a lot. Hey, Chris, do you have a black hoodie? Does Under Armour make this or that?’ He will text them, ‘Great game I saw on TV.’”
Of course, there are many other factors besides Under Armour that are at work in Maryland’s favor, including the fact that the twins’ close friend and former AAU teammate, Shaquille Clear, is currently a freshman forward for the Terrapins.
Nevertheless, the ties between the Harrison twins and the Under Armour brand are undoubtedly strong, and it helps to give Maryland the type of firepower to be able to contend with college basketball’s top recruiter—John Calipari.
The Harrisons’ recruitment is an excellent example of how brand loyalty now permeates basketball at both the amateur and professional levels, but the question remains: Is there really a stronger “brand” in college basketball than John Calipari?
In just three years at Kentucky, Calipari has already had 15 of his players selected in the NBA Draft—11 ended up being first-round picks. Add in an ever-elusive national championship from last season, and a college coach’s marketability has never been higher.
Nevertheless, Calipari found himself in a similar recruiting battle last offseason for the services of Shabazz Muhammad and ultimately lost out to the collective influence of UCLA’s proximity and their Adidas affiliation.
The Harrisons’ recruitment is eerily reminiscent to that of Muhammad. So, the ultimate question is: Will this recruitment be any different?
Their father would likely exclaim, “yes!” In fact, Harrison Sr. insists that his sons do not care about any of the factors mentioned above.
“They don’t want for anything material,” he told Prisbell. “They don’t have to go to the NBA to take care of me and mamma. We are going to be fine taking care of ourselves. The dynamics are different. They don’t want shoes.You’re not going to get them with a pair of shoes.”
Thus, in the end, despite all of the hoopla about corporate branding and marketability, the decision ultimately comes down to the undoubtedly muddled thought process of two 18-year-old kids simply trying to figure out which college fits them best.
Where their thinking has led them is certainly a mystery to even the best of prognosticators—not to mention their father.