You could say Kentucky's loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four represented a twin killing. Chad Ford, who analyzes NBA Drafts for ESPN, saw the final minutes of the game as a crippling blow to Andrew and Aaron Harrison's hopes of being first-round draft picks.
"If there was a stake that was put in their hearts, it was the very end of the Wisconsin game," Ford said last week.
In the final five minutes, Kentucky lost a four-point lead and its hopes for a historic unbeaten record and national championship. That same span also provided one final head-scratcher to punctuate the Harrisons' puzzling two-year UK careers.
The lasting memory is of three straight shot-clock violations. Andrew Harrison holding the ball as precious seconds ticked away. Aaron Harrison, Mr. Clutch a year earlier, shooting air balls. The plan to get the ball to Karl-Anthony Towns in the low post unrealized.
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"That's the dominant narrative about those guys," Ford said of the Harrisons. "And that's the final taste in every scout's mouth."
In draft projections updated on Friday, Ford rated Andrew Harrison at No. 46 and Aaron Harrison No. 63. That's the middle of the second round and undrafted, respectively.
Despite that, Ford does not label the Harrisons' decision to enter the 2015 NBA Draft as a mistake. He defined a mistake as a decision based on bad advice.
"I've got to believe the Harrison twins got good advice," Ford said. "And this is what they wanted to do."
No one should deny that the Harrisons are savvy about the NBA Draft.
When the Harrisons joined five teammates earlier this month in announcing the intention to enter this year's NBA Draft, Aaron acknowledged that he and his brother came to Kentucky with the intention of being one-and-done players. Of course, that's the raison d'être of Coach John Calipari's hello-goodbye revolving door of a program. Heralded as top-five national prospects upon their arrival in 2013, the Harrisons were supposed to be in last year's NBA Draft.
"I think both would have declared out of high school, if they could have," Ford said. "... They really wanted to go (in 2014). My sources tell me they were very far along in the process of declaring. The only thing they didn't get was what they were hoping for: the NBA telling them for sure they were going to be first-round picks."
Calipari touted the twins this past season as new and improved. Bad body language a thing of the past. Slimmer. Trimmer. More athletic.
Ford didn't see it, at least not enough of it.
"They needed to show massive improvement," he said. "I think there was improvement. But I don't think it was substantial improvement. The weaknesses were still there."
Aaron, the shooting guard, made only 31.6 percent of his three-point shots. "That's a really poor percentage for an NBA prospect," Ford said. "And he really doesn't have anything else that screams NBA player."
Ford noted a telling factor: UK's array of talent this past season meant Aaron got open shots. He just didn't make a large percentage of them.
Andrew, projected as a lottery pick coming out of high school, remained a point guard more noted for his size than playmaking. With Tyler Ulis expected to be UK's point guard next season, Andrew's departure will be unlamented.
"An OK gamble" is what Ford called the Harrisons' decision to return to UK for a sophomore season.
"Maybe a year of maturity and given how successful the team was going to be, that could help them," he said. "And it didn't."
Jim Nantz, the long-time play-by-play man on CBS telecasts of the Final Four, questioned the decision by several Kentucky players to enter this year's NBA Draft.
Speaking on the Rich Eisen radio show last week, Nantz said he could not understand how Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson could enter the 2015 NBA Draft.
"Why are they leaving?" Nantz said of the Harrison twins. "Is it really going to behoove their future ... to get drafted in the second round, if they get drafted at all?"
Nantz noted the negligible impact Johnson made in UK's Final Four loss to Wisconsin.
"You wouldn't even know he was on the floor?" Nantz said. "He played a few minutes. Maybe blocked a shot? I'm not sure. Nothing memorable."
Johnson played eight minutes. He did not score or grab a rebound. He did not block a shot.
"How is he going to help an NBA team?" Nantz said.
Nantz noted that making an NBA team can be difficult for players not drafted in the first round.
"I'd like to come back two or three years from now and pick up this conversation," Nantz told Eisen, "and see where these seven (UK players) are. Was it a good move?"
Filling a void
Late last week, Chad Ford, who analyzes NBA drafts for ESPN, elevated Dakari Johnson into the 30th and final pick of the first round.
"People ahead of him on the board decided to go back to school," Ford said. "After the season ended, (Johnson) kept steadily moving up the board just because guys in front of him decided to return to school."
Much-more productive players like Damian Jones of Vanderbilt and A.J. Hammons of Purdue decided to return to school next season. Big man prospects in Turkey and France also decided to bypass this year's NBA Draft.
Thus, Johnson advanced on Ford's mock draft.
"We all know what he is," Ford said. "Because of his body and his size, he's a backup center in the NBA. And he was a backup center at Kentucky."
With heralded freshman Skal Labissiere joining UK next season, Johnson was likely to remain a backup center, Ford said.
"But that doesn't mean he won't be a first-round pick," the ESPN analyst said. "For teams drafting in the late 20s, backup centers are hard to find."
Up, up and away?
NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford applauded Alex Poythress' decision to return to Kentucky next season. Poythress, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December, bypassed a reasonable chance at being drafted this year.
"I actually think he'd be a second rounder (in the 2015 draft) just on sheer athleticism upside," Ford said.
Poythress is an intriguing player. His combination of size and athleticism has yet to translate into consistent execution of the basketball basics of shooting, passing and ball-handling.
"He is interesting," Ford said. "His athletic abilities are elite. If he ever starts knocking down shots or creating his own offense, he'll fly. He'll fly right back up the board.
"I don't think he had anything to lose by coming back, and probably had a lot to gain."
Perhaps because of an involuntary twitch, reporters asked UK Coach John Calipari about recruiting last week. A decrease in McDonald's All-Americans, perhaps nearly a 50-percent drop, caused concern.
Calipari repeatedly said all was well, even if Kentucky did not sign any more players.
This brought back a memory of the late Rick Majerus.
Beginning in 1993, Kentucky played Majerus-coached Utah teams in four NCAA tournaments within a six-year period. Kentucky won every game.
The always-entertaining Majerus, who passed away on Dec. 1, 2012, could make this routine interesting.
For instance, the word before one of those games (I don't remember which) was that Kentucky lacked its customary load of talent. A reporter asked Majerus about Kentucky being shorthanded.
Majerus all but rolled his eyes before dryly saying, "Nobody's going to hold a telethon to help Kentucky get players."
Before the 2014 Final Four at AT&T Stadium, Frank Kaminsky noted how strange it was to play basketball in a football stadium. He hadn't changed his mind as Wisconsin prepared to play Kentucky in the national semifinals in Lucas Oil Stadium early this month.
"Still weird playing in a football stadium," he said. "There's so much room."
By contrast, the Badgers played the West Region in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"It felt like people were just surrounding the court," Kaminsky said.
Marketplace of ideas
Earlier this month, Oakland University in suburban Detroit unveiled what it billed as the only all-black basketball court in the country.
"What a fantastic court," OU athletic director Jeff Konya said in a promotional video release from what the school calls its O'rena. "It came out better than we expected. ...
"This gives us a distinct look in the marketplace."
Oak Hill Academy Coach Steve Smith was the keynote speaker at Asbury University's Athletics Celebration Banquet last week. (Full disclosure: Rather than deliver a speech, Smith entertained an audience of about 200 by responding to questions I posed.)
Smith, an Asbury graduate, acknowledged the ever-increasing interest in recruiting: player ratings, schools added and dropped, home visits scheduled, showcases, etc, etc. He recalled how one of his players, future NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, was ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the country as a junior. The only player rated better than Durant was the ill-fated Greg Oden.
Being perceived as the second-best prospect was not good enough for Durant's stepfather, Wayne Pratt. Pratt orchestrated Durant's transfer to another school for his senior season in hopes of becoming the No. 1 prospect.
Pitcher without borders
U of L's Maryssa Becker pitched and hit her team to an 8-0 softball victory over Kentucky Tuesday. She is a sophomore from Medford, Ore., majoring in biology and hoping to become a doctor: Either an orthopedic surgeon or a pediatrician.
"I'm trying to minor in Spanish," she said after the game. "So maybe doing something with Doctors Without Borders for a little bit would be kind of a dream or aspiration."
To Todd Bearup. He turned 48 on Saturday. ... To Father Ed Bradley. He turned 72 on Friday. ... To LeRon Ellis. He turns 46 on Tuesday. ... To Bob McCowan. He turned 66 on Thursday. ... To Bob Tallent. He turns 69 on Sunday (today). ... To David Hobbs. The former UK assistant coach turned 66 on Saturday. ... To Dwight Anderson. He turns 55 on Tuesday.