John Calipari and his assistants set foot in the Texas home of Aaron and Andrew Harrison for the first time Sunday.
But impressing the twin superstars wasn’t the No. 1 priority.
“They really got a chance to talk to my wife and that’s probably the most important thing they got to do,” said Aaron Harrison Sr, the players’ father. “They met her face to face and she laid eyes on them and got to make sure they could take care of her children.”
When it comes to recruiting, winning over Mrs. Harrison is at the top of the list. And Aaron Harrison Sr. said his wife’s input will have nothing to do with basketball.
The elder Harrison said his wife “doesn’t care about basketball at all.” He estimated that his sons had played about 100 games per season over the past five years and, of those, “she’s probably been to eight games total.”
“It’s more about how people treat Aaron and Andrew on the court and how they heckle them. She really can’t handle that. She doesn’t like that, so she doesn’t attend.”
But she has played an active role in her sons’ recruitment.
Baylor also met with the twins Sunday, and Maryland visited the family Monday. SMU and Villanova, the other two schools on their list, will be making their pitch in the near future.
Harrison Sr. said that his wife, who’s usually “quiet and reserved” when it comes to basketball, was a driving force in the meetings with coaches.
“She told every coach in there that she could care less if they ever pick up a ball again,” he said. “Education and safety are very important to her.
“She has had her conversations with Kenny Payne about those being our babies and what she is expecting if they were to come there. … But that’s the first time she’s had a chance to tell the head coaches exactly how she felt about that.”
But it wasn’t her first experience with Kentucky basketball. The Harrisons have already visited Lexington twice, including last year for Big Blue Madness.
While most of the recruits in town for that event were 2012 prospects taking their official visits, the Harrisons paid their own way.
Harrison Sr. owns a car lot and said he’s “blessed to be financially stable,” and in a position to pay for his sons’ recruiting visits. He also said the family “really enjoyed” the madness trip to UK despite missing out on some of the perks.
“We couldn’t do some things (the other recruits) got to do, because they were on (an official) visit,” he said. “The coach’s house and horse races and things like that. But that’s how it goes. We enjoyed it. We just did it in a little different way.”
But that will be the family’s last trip to Lexington, unless, of course, the twins commit to Kentucky. After two visits, Harrison Sr. knows “all I need to know” about UK.
In fact, the Harrisons haven’t planned any more visits to any of the schools on their list, though they haven’t ruled out a few more trips.
ESPN reported last week that the twins were “likely” to visit Maryland on Oct. 12 for that school’s midnight madness event.
It turns out that was a bit premature.
“The only thing I’ve done is I’ve asked somebody, ‘When is their midnight madness?’ That was it,” he said. “And I never told anyone we were going. … It’s not a done deal, but I’m definitely not saying that we’re not (going). It’s a possibility.”
Harrison said the possible Maryland trip isn’t the only misconception out there about his sons’ recruitment.
First, they don’t have a decision date set in stone. There has been a lot of buzz around their birthday (Oct. 29) as the day when the twins will announce. But Harrison Sr. said it could be well before then, or well after.
“That deadline is something me and them discussed. If they decide that they don’t want to stick to it, I don’t care,” he said.
And as far as UK being the leader, well, that’s not necessarily the case either.
“There’s no conversation from anybody named Harrison that says, ‘this school is the leader,’” he said. “Until then, you’re wasting your time.”
Harrison jokingly attributed UK’s status as runaway frontrunner to “too many websites.” But he also said the way his sons present themselves has played a part in the speculation.
By not naming any favorites but praising the schools on their list, the Harrisons have left a lot of room for discussion. And, for months, most of that discussion has concluded that UK is the team to beat.
Since they’ve never gone out of their way to seek coverage or squash rumors, that thought has spread.
Don’t expect the Harrisons to change their approach in the final weeks of their recruitment.
“We’re not the family that needs the attention,” Harrison Sr. said. “I’ve never once put anything on YouTube about them. They’ve never once put anything on YouTube about themselves. They’ve done no self-promotion. That’s not the kind of men I’m raising. That’s not how it works at my house.”
But, make no mistake, UK continues to be a major player (if not the outright favorite) in the effort to land the twins.
Harrison Sr. said Calipari touted his program’s commitment to education, especially among former players who go on to the NBA but return to work on their degrees. And the UK coach assured Mrs. Harrison that he would be “protective” of the twins and treat them “like they’re his own.”
Harrison Sr. also said that Calipari put a little spin on his regular recruiting line that Kentucky “isn’t for everybody.”
“He said ‘It’s not for everybody … but I’m sure it’s for you all.’”