Harrison twins have 'great experience' in land of Big Blue Nation

broberts@herald-leader.comDecember 1, 2012 

Andrew and Aaron Harrison got a little taste of what's to come during this weekend's visit to Benton.

The Kentucky basketball signees encountered several thousand cheering Cat fans at the Marshall County Hoop Fest. They also got heckled — hearing plenty of taunts from the Ballard supporters during Friday's victory over the Bruins.

The Ballard fans were on the Harrison twins every time they came down the court. They cheered when Andrew missed a pair of free throws. They screamed in Aaron's direction. They even started a "C-A-R-D-S" chant late in the game.

That's a vacation to the Harrisons.

The twins learned to deal with the pressure a long time ago.

"My dad instilled mental toughness into us," Andrew said. "He said some crazy stuff to us when he was coaching us, so I feel like I can handle anything."

What kind of stuff?

"I can't say that," he said with a grin.

The soft-spoken Harrison Sr. is apparently anything but on the basketball court, where he coached the twins on the AAU circuit in Texas. A military veteran — he spent about nine years in the Army and Navy — Harrison takes a no-nonsense approach to his sons' lives, both on and off the court.

"He's not like most parents," Andrew said. "He doesn't try to be our friend. He still makes us respect authority and clean up our room. We do whatever he says."

Whatever he's doing has worked.

Like their father, Andrew and Aaron are all bulldog on the court. The twins are always active, and almost always talking. They yap at opposing players, get on their teammates, even berate each other.

National recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said during the game against Ballard that the Harrisons were in "the DeMarcus Cousins realm of trash talking." He meant it in a good way.

"We're just really intense people," Aaron said. "We try to be focused so our teammates will be focused."

As intense as they are during games, the Harrisons are just as polite once they leave the floor.

They spent most of their weekend signing autographs and posing for pictures for the UK fans who had converged on Marshall County.

For those fans, the outcome of the games — Travis High defeated Ballard on Friday and Madison Central on Saturday — was secondary to actually seeing the twins play for the first time.

"I really wanted to impress the Kentucky fans — give them a good show," Aaron said. "I know some drove a long way to come see me play. I just wanted to give them their money's worth.

"It was definitely a different world. Where I go to school, I've grown up my whole life, so nobody really treats me different. Nobody looks at me. It's not really a weird thing. ... I'm sure it's something you have to get used to."

Less than a mile from the Marshall County gym, a pizza joint welcomed the UK recruits to town. The sign outside the restaurant told passersby to attend Hoop Fest and "support" the Harrison twins.

After playing in the late game Friday, the entire Travis High basketball team showed up for some post-midnight pizza.

Asked if they selected the spot based solely on the signage out front, Harrison Sr. laughed and said that, as a matter of fact, they had.

The elder Harrison, who is from Baltimore and was widely believed to favor Maryland as the landing spot for his sons, wore a UK hat the entire weekend. He sought out the parents of Derek Willis during Saturday's Bullitt East game, wanting to reconnect after getting to know them at last month's Big Blue Madness.

His sons spoke Saturday of looking forward to playing with Willis, Marcus Lee, James Young and whoever else is in Lexington when they arrive next season.

For a couple of days, they got a sense of what that will be like.

"The weekend's been great," Aaron said. "The fans have been great. Everywhere we went, people have known us. I didn't know basketball was this important down here. But it's a great fan base. Probably the best fan base in the world."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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