After months of speculation and what seemed to be an endless 30-minute buildup for a national television audience, Andrew Harrison leaned into a white microphone Thursday at his high school in Richmond, Tex., and announced where he and his twin brother, Aaron, would be playing college basketball.
“For the next four years,” he said, “we’ll be attending the University of Kentucky.”
The announcement came as a blow to the University of Maryland and its fans, who were hoping that the twins — Andrew, considered the No. 1 point guard recruit in the nation by most recruiting analysts, and Aaron, considered the No. 1 shooting guard prospect — would be coming to College Park in what would have been the most impressive recruiting coup for second-year Terrapins Coach Mark Turgeon.
Instead, the Harrisons will likely join the parade of one-and-dones to play for Kentucky Coach John Calipari — who has had eight such players in the past three seasons — even if they announced Thursday they would stay for four years. It’s the third time since 2009 the Wildcats’ master recruiter has scored two top five recruits in the same class.
“I think Coach Calipari presented a challenge for us, and he just told us from Day 1 it’s going to be hard, and he’s going to push us every day,” Andrew said on ESPNU, which televised the announcement. “That’s what we wanted to hear. We want to become better players.”
In orally committing to Kentucky, the Harrisons spurned a litany of personal connections at Maryland. Assistant coach Bino Ranson is a childhood friend of their father. Turgeon has maintained a relationship with the family for six years, going back to his time at Texas A&M. Maryland freshman Shaquille Cleare is a close friend and former teammate on the Houston Defenders, an AAU team sponsored by Under Armour, the company that outfits Maryland’s student-athletes.
Southern Methodist was trumpeted on the broadcast as being in the mix, but multiple reports had the decision down to Kentucky and Maryland.
“I just really want to thank Maryland and SMU for recruiting me so hard,” Aaron said.
One night, Aaron said, they sat down and decided to go somewhere where they could “win as soon as we got there.” Andrew acknowledged Calipari’s track record of placing prospects on a one-way shuttle to the first round of the NBA draft, but the enticement of “[getting] on campus and [showing] them what I can do” was enough.
With the Harrisons headed to Lexington, the Terrapins will have to scramble for additional top recruits. The national exposure brought on by the broadcast and much-ballyhooed saga could help, but Kansas recently offered a scholarship to Suitland High School point guard Roddy Peters, widely considered to be Maryland’s fallback.
But the true prizes were the Harrisons, who would have made Maryland an instant favorite for the 2013-14 national title. Instead, the Terrapins will try to get the upper edge on the court when they play defending national champion Kentucky in the season opener Nov. 9 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.