One Kentucky guard stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 218 pounds. The only difference with the other is he weighs 3 pounds less.
Aaron Harrison, the 218-pounder, and his twin brother, Andrew, look alike, talk alike and act alike.
“They really look the same,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said, drawing laughter. “I made them have different haircuts early, so I could figure out who was who. But they’re so different.”
The Harrison twins, who played their high school ball in Richmond, outside Houston, join Julius Randle as Texans in the Wildcats’ starting lineup. It is believed that no men’s basketball team with three Texas high school products in their starting lineup has ever won an NCAA Division I title. (The 1966 Texas Western championship team started only one Texas schoolboy against Kentucky.)
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Texas is not the “Lone” Star State for basketball prospects any longer.
ESPN ranked Andrew as the top point guard and No. 2 overall prospect last year. Aaron rated the No. 4 overall player and top-ranked shooting guard in the country. Randle, who played at Plano Prestonwood Christian, rated as the No. 3 overall prospect and top player at his position.
“Well, it’s not just a football state,” Calipari said of Texas. “I mean, people may believe that, but they’ve got terrific basketball players down here, too. ... But to say we’re recruiting Texas well, we just happened to have three kids we wanted from the state of Texas. I will tell you that coaching here, from the late ’80s, early ’90s, to now, the coaching now in this state is as good as anywhere.”
The Wildcats had the nation’s top recruiting class, with center Dakari Johnson, forward James Young, power forward Marcus Lee and power forward Derek Willis also signing. Johnson and Young have joined the three Texans in Kentucky’s starting five.
“We all just wanted to come here to Kentucky and play with other great players,” Andrew Harrison said. “We want to win, and that is why we came here. When you come here to Kentucky, you can’t be hidden. You have to play well at every practice and every game. That is enjoyable. When you come here, you just have to look forward to battles at practice every day and being under a microscope.”
Calipari said repeatedly this week he had to get his young players to figure out that by “doing less, they’re actually doing more.”
The Harrisons received much of the criticism early as the Wildcats’ freshmen struggled to figure out the college game. Calipari addressed the Harrisons’ “body language” — not flailing their arms or making faces when things don’t go right, among other things.
“When you are young, you just try to prove yourself,” Andrew Harrison said. “That is all that we were trying to do. I think we have done that so far, but at the same time, we have sacrificed for the team.”
Calipari said Andrew’s development keyed the Wildcats’ run to the Final Four. And Aaron sank the game-winner against Michigan in the Elite Eight. Andrew is averaging 12.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.5 turnovers in tournament play. Aaron is averaging 16.0 points and 1.3 rebounds and has five steals.
“I have just been more focused,” Aaron said.
“I got a big burden off my shoulders and just started playing basketball again. I wasn’t thinking so much about missing, but I am just thinking about shooting the ball.”