|Aaron (left) and Andrew Harrison talk Thursday before announcing they will attend Kentucky next year. (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)|
University of Maryland basketball fans collectively held their breath as they awaited word from Fort Bend, Texas. The announcement at 4:30 p.m. central time yesterday could bring Maryland basketball back to the top, a journey that is already well underway.
Andrew and Aaron Harrison, twin guards who are both ranked in the top-5 of the Rivals class of 2013, had decided what school name they would wear across their chests next year. Two schools remained in the race; one would celebrate that night with two guards who will be an immediate impact, and the other would keep searching high school gyms for big talent.
The fact that Maryland made the list of the final two schools on the Harrison twins' minds says a lot about the job head coach Mark Turgeon is doing to resurrect the program. But the other school waiting on the announcement was Kentucky and coach John Calipari, and this was a battle he usually wins. This time was no different.
There's not much else Turgeon could have done. He's recruited the twins since they were in seventh grade and has had a relationship with the family ever since. The Harrisons have family in Baltimore - as well as their father originally being from Baltimore - and Aaron and Andrew had the opportunity to carry Maryland back to the top. Maryland sometimes had three coaches at the twins' summer games and Turgeon often recruited the twins himself, including devoting the first and final day of the July recruiting period to them.
None of that mattered, because Kentucky had something to offer that Maryland just couldn't; a system that funnels freshmen in, makes them first-round draft picks, and sends them off to fame and the NBA, but not before possibly getting a national championship ring.
In the end, that's the most important recruiting tool to high school athletes. And as long as Kentucky continues to win with Calipari's system, the Wildcats will have their choice of high school phenoms.
Elite high school basketball players look at the superstars of the NBA and that is where they want to be. The reasoning is not about getting a good education. School pride, tradition and pageantry probably play a role in a decision, but not as much as "can this coach and school get me to the NBA?"
You can't blame the Harrison twins for picking Kentucky. They will play under the bright lights of one of the most tradition-rich programs and win. A lot. They will play college basketball for a year or two and most likely be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. Many would and will do the same.
It would have been a great storyline to see these two players welcome in a new era of Maryland basketball. If successful, they would be forever remembered and loved by the Terp faithful.
Instead, the Harrison twins will be two more players in the assembly line that is Kentucky basketball. And as long as Calipari's system continues to work, it doesn't matter what Turgeon or any other rebuilding coach does, Kentucky will win the recruiting war.
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