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The Marshall County Hope Fest

Photo by William Warfield

Late in the fourth quarter of the last game of the Marshall County Hoop Fest, fans finally got what they came for. Andrew Wiggins shook off a lackluster game with a rim-rattling dunk that brought over 6,000 fans to their feet. Reed Conder Gymnasium rung with a chorus of appreciative “ooooooh”s as the Big Blue Nation smiled at one another and the star on the court that may soon be theirs.

Shortly after, Wiggins came out of the game to a standing ovation, finishing with 25 points and nine rebounds. It wasn’t his best game; he seemed tired from the previous night’s 29 point, 17 rebound, five assist and five steal spectacle, but in the second half, he came alive, scoring 20 points, including three three-pointers, evidence of the shooting touch that had been missing the night before.

Future la familia?

Having never seen Wiggins play in person before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many have called Wiggins the most talented high school player since LeBron; honestly, after one half, I didn’t buy it. The number one prospect in the nation was sluggish and didn’t seem to be putting much effort in against a vastly inferior Briarcrest Christian team; however, Wiggins turned off the cruise control in the second half, scoring 11 points in four minutes. His play wasn’t all flash. The 6’7″ small forward wasn’t afraid to drive the post, even if it meant being body checked by a bigger Briarcrest player for an “and one.” After a few threes, the crowd broke into the first “Go Big Blue” chant of the night, drawing a smile from Wiggins, who threw down his monster dunk moments later. Coincidence? I think not.

Predictably, Wiggins won his second MVP honor of the festival, and was given the award by former UK great Derek Anderson. Fans immediately mobbed him, cornering him into the stands to sign autographs, take pictures, or just be in his presence. Wiggins obliged, staying on the court until every fan got what they wanted (except for a verbal for the Cats).

Wiggins agreed to answer a few questions, the most important being about his potential future teammates, the Harrison Twins:

“They’re great, I can see myself playing with them in the future. They love to pass, they love to score, and if they score, it takes pressure off me to score.”

One of the big questions surrounding Wiggins’ recruitment is whether or not he is willing to join UK’s star-packed 2013 class. His comments about the Harrison Twins are an encouraging sign in what has been a hard to read process. He’ll have another chance to play in front of the Big Blue Nation at the Boyd County Shootout on December 14th and 15th. Get your chants ready.

Andrew Harrison and Louisville signee Quentin Snider. Photo by William Warfield

It wasn’t just the Andrew Wiggins Show in Benton. The Harrison Twins brought their own share of stardom, with Kentucky fans eager for a glimpse of what’s in store for next season. On Friday night, the Harrisons got their first taste of what it might be like to play as a Wildcat when they faced off against Louisville Ballard’s Quentin Snider, who is committed to the Cards. Louisville and Kentucky fans squared off behind their new players, who even engaged in a little smack talk. The Twins stepped up to the challenge, with Aaron winning MVP honors with a 28-point, five rebound and four steal performance. Andrew chipped in 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Aaron said that he wanted to give Kentucky fans a good show, and he did.

Andrew took his turn in the spotlight on Saturday, putting up 25 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a steal. Aaron was sidelined with foul trouble for most of the game, scoring only three points. Andrew showed off a silky smooth jump shot that was a welcome relief from UK’s shooting woes earlier in the day against Baylor. The talented point guard’s confidence and brilliant no-look passes made just about everyone in the building wish he and his brother were joining the team tomorrow, not next season. Both he and his brother showed a lot of passion on the court, at times arguing calls (some of which need to be argued) and getting their teammates into position. Some may argue that the twins showed attitude, but I saw it as frustration with foul trouble and a competitive spirit, the latter of which we now know better than to criticize.

Photo by William Warfield

The most encouraging part of the festival was watching the Twins play together. It’s clear that Cal’s teams function best when led by two talented ball handlers, and the Twins work together seamlessly. The number one reason Kentucky fans should be drooling over them? They’ve been doing this since birth. Next season, two-fifths of the starting lineup will already be in sync, a rarity for an incoming Calipari team. The only thing I’m worried about? Telling them apart. Seriously. Even the scorers at the Fest got the two confused at times on Friday night. A little facial hair might help, just saying.

I asked the Twins’ father, Aaron Harrison, Sr., how his sons were handling the rock-star treatment at the Fest. Harrison Sr., sporting a Kentucky hat, said the Twins were enjoying it: “They’ve enjoyed playing in front of the UK fans, it will help them get ready for next season. We already get groups of fans, maybe 20-40, swarming them at the mall at home.” As for their performance during the game, Harrison Sr. said they both played better the night before, but that’s because teams are better prepared for them now: “The teams bring their best games against them now. … It’s their Superbowl.” Sound familiar?

After their game, twin fever took over, with a line for autographs 300-deep wrapping around the school lobby. Like pros, the Twins stuck around to sign and take pictures. While I was taking a break in the cafeteria (nacho bar!), they came in with their team and the older lady running the desk jumped up, passed her camera to a coworker and grabbed the Twins’ hands for a picture. The Twins laughed and smiled for the picture before grabbing some grub and a moment of peace and quiet. Don’t think for a second that the Twins’ teammates don’t appreciate this: one had a “Twinning” tee under his warm-ups and even Harrison Sr., who many thought wanted his kids to go to Maryland instead, snapped a picture of a UK fan’s “Twinsanity” t-shirt.

Aaron tweeted about the trip this morning:


2014 UK target Cliff Alexander had a big game on Friday, putting up 26 points and 13 rebounds. Alexander’s team was vastly inferior to perennial powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, but the five-star power forward was able to control the post with ease. Alexander said he heard from the Kentucky staff on Friday and Louisville assistants watched him in person. Kentucky and Michigan State are considered to be his favorites. Also on UK’s radar: Huntington Prep’s Montaque Gill-Caesar, the 18th ranked player in the 2015 class. Wiggins’ teammate looked impressive in Huntington’s win over Briarcreast on Saturday, with 15 points and five rebounds. Keep an eye on him over the next year.

Mark “Bless his little heart” French (Photo by @PaulAbles)

The Fest had its lighter moments, too. During the Huntington Prep/Briarcrest Christian game, little 5’8″ Mark French came in for Briarcrest. At 5’3″ (and three quarters), I have serious sympathy for shorties, as did the crowd, who roared when French got a rebound. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about him when he was near big Dominic Woodson, the 6’9″ 300 lbs. center committed to Baylor. (And they say I’m not maternal.)

Finally, major props to Marshall County High School, who put on one hell of a show. I’ll admit, I haven’t been to a high school game since my senior year at DHS, so this was quite a shock. Not only was the facility amazing (if a high school can get a scoreboard suspended from the ceiling, so can we, Kentucky. It’s time for Big Bertha to retire), but everyone involved was wonderful. Nothing says sporting events like awesome junk food and here are just a few of the items available: standard fare, such as hot dogs/burgers/popcorn; ribeye sandwiches; waffle cones made on the spot; designer cupcakes; and of course, the BBQ nachos (big thanks to the Marshall County Dugout Club for those, BTW).

Not many things can cheer Kentucky fans up after a big loss. But, in a gymnasium in the middle of Marshall County, fans found hope in a set of Twins whose love for the Big Blue Nation is only eclipsed by their talent, and one star who may soon be on the way.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

26 Comments for The Marshall County Hope Fest

  1. SAD
    10:11 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    we need a good point guard.I miss Teauge.

  2. Cayuts8
    10:17 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    i foresee many an ESPN special on the twins and their life stories

  3. blade
    10:17 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    Wiggins was the best player there. Cliff Alexander really going to be a great low post player. The Harrison Twins, what can be said. going to be great at Ky. Troy Williams really good, but going to Ind. Crean was booed soundly. loved it.

  4. BigBlueMan
    10:24 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    Hope for the hoops?

  5. Charlie Strong
    10:34 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    But I don’t want to play Florida. Life’s not fair. Why can’t we play Temple, Uconn and Cincinnati? The SEC will kick our butts.

  6. Mr. Blonde
    10:44 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    I met Crean at the event. He was sitting at the media table next to Mark Gottfried and several other coaches. When I asked if I could get a picture with him he left his seat so it would be of better quality. I was wearing a UK hoody and when I threw up the “3 goggles” during the picture he laughed and asked if that was some sort of Big Blue Nation thing. He’s a really nice, class-act guy.

  7. DoubleJ
    10:45 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    Nice write-up TT!

  8. mores
    10:49 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    You went to Davidson. The least you could do is proofread your title.

  9. yesterdays
    10:52 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    Attended Marshall Hoop Fest-

    -Harrison kids DO NOT have some attitude problem. They are all business on the court. They push each other and tell each other to step up- It is not the kind of negative bitching you see other kids doing. Dont concern yourself with their attitude. These kids stuck around for TWO HOURS after the game to sign autographs in the cafeteria. The line was at least 250-300 people long. Chatted with Mr. Harrison briefly. He is a smart guy and said “Cal will get the best out of the boys.”

    Really impressed with Troy Williams. Guy is a stud. Not that impressed with Nate Britt or Q. Snyder. Snider or whatever is great at the high school level but he is not an elite pg. Hes not athletic enough.

  10. Michael
    10:54 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    #8 in defense of TyTy she may be trying for a pun, as the twins provide hope for a more consistent backcourt

  11. SoCal Will
    11:41 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    Nice write up. Did Wiggins appear to be a true 6’7″? His shoulders look only about an inch above the 6’4″ Anderson’s.

  12. curious
    11:44 pm December 2, 2012 Permalink

    What is this DHS you speak of

  13. StoopingIceCream
    12:09 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    Good post! BBQ Nachos???? GTFOHere!! New CW tailgate dish.

  14. Experience
    12:38 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    Really hated to miss this event, hopefully next year I can experience those BBQ nachos! Nice post Mrs T.

  15. Nick
    12:55 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    Is that Evan Daniels on the far right in the panorama?

  16. henry earl
    1:03 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    wiggins looks substantially stronger every time I see him

  17. SeaCat
    1:13 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    12) yeah, Wiggins is no taller than Derek.
    Kid will be lucky to play the 3 spot.

  18. cathalchan
    6:13 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    Wiggins looked 6’8″ to me, and I was on the floor during both of his games. As for the barbecue nachos, we will have them again, and if you can’t wait until hoopfest, come to a Marshall County baseball game this spring. We will make sure they are available. Thanks to Tyler for her excellent coverage of hoopfest.

  19. kentuckyjoe
    7:36 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    great report Ms. TT.

  20. Iknow
    7:56 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    The Harrison twins, One needs to wear a tshirt under the jersey and the other not. That way we could tell them apart.

  21. Jen
    9:46 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    The picture with Andrew and QSnider looks to me like the triplet of the Harrison Twins got sent off to Ballard because he couldn’t ball! Look at the player to the far right, I had to take a double take.

  22. lakesidecarsfan
    10:21 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    Yes that is evan daniels.

  23. ToVaX
    10:48 am December 3, 2012 Permalink

    If we get Wiggins,
    and none of this years team goes pro,
    this years team will all be on the bench next year going by this weekend performance.

  24. UKalum
    12:00 pm December 3, 2012 Permalink

    @14 If you haven’t had BBQ nachos you a missing out.

  25. UKalum
    12:00 pm December 3, 2012 Permalink

    you are*