First, they emerged into the national spotlight as young hoops prodigies, earning lofty national rankings as freshmen. Then came the showering of scholarship offers, followed by a flirtation with making early commitments during the summer before their junior year. But they pumped the brakes on their recruitment and focused on basketball, solidifying their status as the nation’s No. 1 rated prospects at each of their respective positions.
And then came this summer, a non-stop whirlwind of travel to AAU events, where they almost always served as the main attraction for fans, media and the coaches of the schools recruiting them -- none of whom dared miss a single game for fear of giving the other guys an advantage.
And now, with their final summer of travel basketball complete and their long-awaited college decision not far on the horizon, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison have moved on to the next phase: exhaling.
“We really don’t have a game plan [for recruiting]. We’re going to go ahead and take a rest. This is probably the first night they’ve been in their own beds in 22 days. That’s all they want to do,” said Aaron Harrison Sr., father of the heralded twin guards from Travis High in Richmond, Texas.
The Harrisons said earlier this summer they’d announce their decision on their birthday, Oct. 28, but later left some wiggle room, saying a commitment could come sooner. At the moment, they don’t have an ironclad date in mind, and haven’t decided whether or not they’ll take any more visits.
“I’m guessing they’re going to make it to their birthday, but I don’t think they’ve really decided on that. They’re going to do it on their own terms,” he said.
Speaking of which, usually in such high-profile recruitments, there becomes a public consensus as to which school might be in the pole position. That’s not the case with the Harrisons, whose father said the mystery is the result of their indecision rather than any desire to keep everyone guessing. Those hoping to read about a trimmed list of schools will have to wait; in fact, their options have grown by one.
“They haven’t trimmed anything. And SMU is coming on really strong, so they’ve actually added one,” he said. “Each of the schools has great things about it. If you could combine them all into one, that would be it. But instead you’ve got to figure out which one offers the best all-around.”
Maryland, Kentucky, Villanova and Baylor round out the final five for the Harrisons. The Terps have been dogged in their pursuit, attending every event at which they’ve played, often sending multiple coaches. Coach Mark Turgeon’s been a regular at their games, as have coaches from each of the other schools in the hunt.
Andrew Harrison is the consensus No. 1 point guard in the nation, while brother Aaron is the top shooting guard.
But at this point, their father said, the twins fully understand how important they are to each of the schools. So while he understands why they were being followed like rock stars on a summer concert tour, he said his sons aren’t concerned about which staff is showing them the most attention.
“They don’t operate like that," he said. "[Coaching AAU basketball] for a few years, I’ve learned that there are kids who operate like that, who run their household and worry about which schools are there. I’m sure they’d be disappointed if no coaches showed up, but I don’t think they look around to see who’s there. Most kids are in need of attention. Aaron and Andrew aren’t into that. They’ve got both parents. They know who Jesus is. They know what a man looks like.”
The Harrisons traveled to Baltimore, where their father grew up and their grandparents reside, two weeks ago for an exhibition against Nike Baltimore Elite, and Harrison said his sons were impressed by the number of Terps fans who showed up to cheer them on, talk basketball and even grab autographs.
“I’m sure that does [have an effect]," Harrison said. "They’re very tight with their grandparents, and Shaq [Cleare] is pretty tight with them, but he couldn’t make it that night. Those things have to have an effect on them. There were probably 30 or 40 Maryland fans outside when they got there, and they were asking me how far the University is from there because of the fans that showed up.
“I think that showed them a little bit more that Baltimore is a basketball city. One thing they’ve said is, they definitely want to go to a basketball school. Growing up in Texas, they know what it’s like to be at a football school. Their school won the state championship in basketball and football was still first.”
Along those lines, Kentucky looms large in their recruitment. Some have speculated the Harrisons will end up in Lexington because of John Calipari’s prolific run of putting players -- especially guards -- into the NBA after one year.
“Of course they tell you from Day One about the guys that go to the NBA. And it’s kind of like Baltimore because it’s also a basketball town. That’s definitely part of the thinking process,” Harrison said.
While Harrison continues to guide his prodigious sons through the recruiting process, he maintains it’s their decision only – a fact he recently reiterated when Maryland assistant Bino Ranson, who’s known Harrison for years, prodded at him about having his sons go ahead and declare their allegiance to the Terps.
“Of course he does. I said, ‘I’m not going to college, Bino,’” Harrison said. “If I make the decision for them and then something goes wrong, it’s going to be, ‘Dad, you chose this school.’
“It’s gotta be their decision. Gotta be.”