UK Recruiting

Kentucky signee gets Calipari's point: leadership required

Andrew Harrison at a McDonald's All-American practice and photo shoot in Chicago.
Andrew Harrison at a McDonald's All-American practice and photo shoot in Chicago. Courtesy of McDonald's

This much is certain: John Calipari will have a whole lot of talent at his disposal next season.

What isn't as clear is how the UK basketball coach will deploy that talent. Roles and rotations will surely be defined and redefined as the season progresses.

One player will know his place from the moment he steps on campus.

Andrew Harrison is the starting point guard, and Calipari will be counting on him to be so much more.

The UK coach made that abundantly clear while recruiting Harrison and his twin brother.

"He told me and Aaron that we're going to have to come in there and be vocal leaders," Harrison told the Herald-Leader last week. "Especially me, being the point guard. I'm going to have to come in there and make sure everybody's working hard.

"He said that's what they lacked this year: Leadership."

Calipari had to do more yelling this past season than he has grown accustomed to.

In previous years, he could count on a point guard — Derrick Rose, John Wall, etc. — to get the rest of the guys on the court on the same page.

Last season's floor general, Ryan Harrow, was more mouse than madman when it came to rallying teammates. Harrow preferred the silent approach.

That's not Andrew Harrison's style.

The hard-nosed Texan is an in-your-face — often literally — player that isn't afraid to get on his teammates.

And that goes for the older teammates, too. Harrison was in the middle of a McDonald's All-American practice when news broke that Willie Cauley-Stein would return to UK for a sophomore season.

The UK recruit's first reaction was to point out that Cauley-Stein needed "a little bit more focus," something he plans to help him with.

The same goes for Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and anybody else that returns to the Cats in 2013-14.

"I just have to be more vocal," Harrison said. "When you see somebody doing something wrong, you let him know. And you have to make your teammates feel comfortable enough around you that, if you do something wrong, they'll tell you."

The player who has been on the receiving end of Andrew's on-court criticism more than anyone is his brother Aaron.

The two guards have been going at it their whole lives. The backyard one-on-one games were fiercely competitive, and they don't dial it down as teammates.

Their skills are largely interchangeable. Andrew can be a scorer, and Aaron can run the point. But Aaron admits his twin brother has a little something extra that makes him a more effective floor leader.

"I definitely like playing point," Aaron said. "But it's more vigorous than the shooting guard position, and Andrew takes that on. He likes the pressure. Andrew's more like the quarterback."

He'll be able to send those passes in plenty of directions next season.

Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle and James Young are three of the most prolific scorers in the country. Add Cauley-Stein, Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee in the post — and Wiltjer on the wing — and Harrison will have options all over Rupp.

"A lot of people say we have too many pieces," Andrew said. "But I feel like that's my job — to make everybody happy.

"I like to get my teammates involved."

His future teammates are already behind him.

Lee has been playing with the Harrison twins for years, and he praised Andrew's penchant for never giving up and demanding the same effort from those around him.

Another UK commitment, Randle, has been playing against the Harrison twins for years. If Harrison needs a little help getting everyone in line, he'll have the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder by his side.

"I'm not going to leave it all on his shoulders," Randle said. "I'm going to make sure I can do anything I can to help him. I know him — being the PG — in the media's eyes, they're all going to say, 'Oh, it's on him, because he's the point guard.' But I'm going to do everything I can to help him, because I have his back."

Randle's help will be appreciated, but this will clearly be Andrew's team from the start.

He doesn't need a reminder of the great Calipari point guards who have come before him. He's heard people rattle off that list plenty of times.

UK fans are hoping he's next. And Andrew is confident that will be the case.

"I've had expectations on me all my life," he said. "I feel like, as long as I play to the best of my abilities and be a leader and push my teammates to the best of their abilities — I feel like the sky's the limit for us."

Jordan Brand Classic

What: High school all-star game

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.




11 Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)

7 Aaron Harrison (Kentucky)

5 Andrew Harrison (Kentucky)

23 Kuran Iverson (Memphis)

2 Rondae Jefferson (Arizona)

0Kennedy Meeks (North Carolina)

10 Bobby Portis (Arkansas)

30 Julius Randle (Kentucky)

4 Wayne Selden (Kansas)

32 Chris Walker (Florida)

22 Andrew Wiggins (Undecided)


34 Joel Embiid (Kansas)

32 Aaron Gordon (Arizona)

11 Kasey Hill (Florida)

33 Dakari Johnson (Kentucky)

8 Matt Jones (Duke)

2 Marcus Lee (Kentucky)

22 Jabari Parker (Duke)

35 Noah Vonleh (Indiana)

14 Troy Williams (Indiana)

0 Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington)

1 James Young (Kentucky)