“One! I’ll even take just one of you! You can pick between yourselves, please.”
As we prepare for “Harrison Twin Day” at Kentucky Sports Radio, other college basketball folks around the nation are considering the epic struggle between the Wildcats and the University of Maryland for the services of the dynamic backcourt duo.
Sports Illustrated’s Rob Dauster considered all the advantages that Maryland has in the recruitment, and why they might not matter in the long run (I’ve numbered them in brackets):
It doesn’t matter that  the twins’ father, Aaron Harrison Sr., who doubles as their AAU coach, is from Baltimore or that he has  plenty of extended family a short drive from Maryland’s College Park campus. It doesn’t matter that  Harrison Sr. has a great relationship with Maryland assistant Bino Ranson, or that  he’s developed a measure of reverence for Mark Turgeon for the way that Turgeon handled the death of recruit Tobi Oyedeji. Oyedeji, who hails from the same area in Texas as the Harrisons, was committed to Turgeon at Texas A&M when he was killed in a car accident the night of his junior prom. The way Harrison Sr. tells it,  that inspired him to contact Turgeon about recruiting his sons, who were high school freshmen at the time.
Should I also mention that  the Harrison’s AAU team, the Houston Defenders, is sponsored by Under Armour, the same company that sponsors the Terps? What about the fact that  Under Armour’s founder is a former Maryland football player? Or that  a former Defender teammate and close friend of the Harrison twins, Shaquille Cleare, is currently a freshman forward for the Terps?
In a normal recruitment, that’s a lock.
What we’ve seen from Calipari, though, is that you can’t expect things to go normally.
Dauster continues by discussing Cal’s ties to famous rappers, most famously Jay-Z and Drake, who both happen to be among Julius Randle’s favorites. He mentions how Calipari has cultivated the Kentucky Effect (even though he doesn’t call it that), and says, probably accurately, that Cal’s biggest strength is relating with players.
The question that I find, though, is this: should the Harrisons pick Kentucky (and I’m knocking on every piece of wood here), even with all the Terps’ advantages, can any other program believe that they have a “lock” when it comes to recruiting a top-ten player? On paper, Maryland has as much in their favor as a school possibly can. Family ties, shoe ties, strong relationships with coaches… everything that seems to sway young players to a particular school seems to be in Maryland’s favor. And yet, Turgeon is fighting for his life with a visit with the Harrisons this afternoon. Why?
The only thing that Maryland doesn’t have is a top-tier pedigree. But the Terps aren’t exactly mid-major. They’ve recently won a national championship (within the Harrisons’ lifetimes), and are a flagship basketball program in the basketball-heavy ACC. While it’s not among the five “blueblood” programs, Maryland basketball is no slouch. They’re good, and have a lot of tradition.
Essentially, Maryland has every advantage a coach would want, but it might not be enough. That it’s even this close a call is fairly illuminative of Calipari’s far-reaching influence. When he nabbed players from North Carolina (Wall), Indiana (Teague), and Florida (Knight), we knew that he could pluck players living under the shadow of successful programs. Should he manage to get a commitment from Aaron and Andrew, who have the tentacles of a successful program draped around their young careers, it’s fair to say that there will be no limits to his prowess.
Saying Calipari is a great recruiter is nothing new. Saying that he’s the best of the current generation might get you some scowls from out-of-staters, but nobody’s going to outright disagree. But consider just how difficult this particular recruiting battle is, even for Calipari. Literally everything that could go Maryland’s way has done just that. But here he is, right in the middle of it, with many whose job consists of predicting such things considering Kentucky to be the favorite. If the twins pick Kentucky, every glimmer of hope that other coaches had will be gone. Dead, at the hands of the Kentucky Effect.
We already know Calipari’s great with accumulating talent; tomorrow he’ll have a chance to flex his recruiting muscles.