Harrison twins snub Maryland, commit to Kentucky

Five weeks from today, Maryland opens its 2012-13 men's basketball season against defending national champion Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

It might be an opportunity for the Terps to exact some revenge for what transpired inside a packed gymnasium at a Texas high school late Thursday afternoon.

Before a national television audience on ESPNU and after weeks of speculation that seemed to get more heated by the day, twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison announced that they would be headed to Lexington next year to play for the Wildcats rather than College Park to play for the Terps.

Though the Harrisons said simultaneously that "for the next four years we will be attending the University of Kentucky," the 6-foot-5 guards, ranked among the top five players in the country and the best at their respective positions for the Class of 2013, are expected to stay only a year in college before going to the NBA.

"I think Coach Calipari presented a challenge for us," said Andrew Harrison, who is the consensus No. 1 point guard in the country and second-ranked recruit overall. "He just told us from Day 1 it's going to be hard, it's going to be tough and he's going to push us every day. That's what we really wanted to hear. We just want to become better players."

Added Aaron Harrison Jr., the consensus No. 1 shooting guard and ranked No. 4 overall: "We decided we wanted to go somewhere we could win as soon as we get there."

The decision by the Harrisons came one day after Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Bino Ranson, who grew up in the same Baltimore neighborhood as Aaron Harrison Sr., flew to Houston to meet with the players' father for lunch.

Harrison Sr., who coached his sons and Maryland freshman Shaquille Cleare on the Houston Defenders AAU team, told USA Today that the Terps "had come on strong as the end" and that Turgeon, whom he met when the coach who replaced Gary Williams was still at Texas A&M, "was the most upright citizen" he had come to know in the recruiting process.

Asked whether Kentucky coach John Calipari's success in turning out No. 1 NBA draft picks, lottery picks and first-round draft choices over the last five years played into their decision, Andrew Harrison said he was aware of the track record but added, "I just want to get there first and become better every day. I'm not looking at that yet. I just want to get on campus and show them what I can do."

But John Lucas, the former Maryland star who has known and mentored the Harrisons since they first arrived at his Houston basketball camp as fifth-graders, said Thursday night by phone that their decision "possibly came down to the one-and-done concept that Cal has put together." Lucas, who attended the news conference, believes Maryland "was very close, they were right in there."

There was speculation this week that the decision might swing in Maryland's favor because Under Armour outfits both the Terps and the AAU team coached by Aaron Harrison Sr. Evan Daniels, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com, discounted Under Armour's potential role as "way overblown."

Daniels said the main reason for Maryland coming as close as it did had to do with the relationship between Turgeon and Harrison Sr.

"I thought it [Under Armour's influence] was a cool story, but it wasn't the real story," Daniels said. "Maryland gave it a heck of a go. In the end, the hot school and the hot coach won out."

The Harrisons will likely be on the Kentucky campus next Friday night for Blue Madness at Rupp Arena, an event they attended as juniors last year and when they first witnessed the lunacy of Kentucky basketball as they saw students camping out the night before the event.

As a result of that trip, Maryland and others, including latecomer Southern Methodist, might have been fighting an uphill battle.

"As soon as me and Aaron got off the plane, they knew who we were, we were signing autographs, taking pictures with little kids, we kind of felt like rock stars," Andrew Harrison said.

Asked what he would say to the schools that lost out in the recruiting battle, Aaron Harrison Jr. said: "I just want to thank Maryland and SMU for recruiting me so hard. I know scholarships are a lot of money, and I am so grateful that they were offering that to me."

Under NCAA rules, Turgeon is not allowed to talk about players who are being recruited until they sign a national letter of intent Nov. 14. Turgeon will now likely turn his attention to the two other highly rated guards he has been recruiting, Suitland's Roddy Peters and Rysheed Jordan of Philadelphia.

The disappointment of Maryland students who went to a local bar to watch the announcement was obvious.

As the word "Kentucky" spilled out of Aaron Harrison's mouth, the packed bar at Looney's Pub in College Park let out a shared groan. Some shouted expletives, some rushed out, others buried their faces into their hands. One girl took off her glasses to stop the tears from forming.

"They could have been part of something bigger," said Josh Ilori, a sophomore anthropology major at Maryland.


Baltimore Sun reporter Chris Trevino contributed to this article.

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