The Big Blue Madness light show was “incredible.”
His sons, Aaron and Andrew, loved that they could shoot ball at the Joe Craft Center until all hours of the night.
But what struck Aaron Harrison Sr. most about his family’s visit to Lexington over the weekend had nothing to do with basketball.
The Harrisons joined some other UK recruits and members of this season’s squad for dinner one night.
Harrison Sr.’s wife, Marian Harrison, just happened to be walking into the restaurant at the same time as UK freshman Archie Goodwin.
Harrison Sr. recalled the exchange:
“She says, ‘Baby, are you going to take your hat off?’”
Goodwin replied: “Ma’am, I wasn’t because I don’t have a haircut. But if you want me to take it off, I’ll definitely take it off.”
And Mrs. Harrison said, “Please do. We’re indoors.”
Harrison Sr. said the UK freshman removed his hat and gave his wife a big hug.
“That’s just a tremendous person — forget basketball player,” Harrison Sr. said. “The atmosphere was just different. We’ve been on other campuses where players don’t want to talk to them because they’re nervous about what’s going to happen at their position if they come there. It wasn’t like that (at UK) at all.”
Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the two top-rated guards in the country, committed to Kentucky earlier this month. The weekend visit was their second trip to Big Blue Madness, but their first official visit to Kentucky.
Harrison Sr. said the players went to Keeneland, stopped by John Calipari’s house, and played basketball into the wee hours with some of this season’s players.
He called the Keeneland visit “an experience in itself.” It was the twins’ first trip to a racetrack.
“We don’t really do animals,” he said. “We don’t have a pet or anything like that.”
The highlight of the weekend for Andrew and Aaron were the late-shooting sessions at the Craft Center.
“Let me tell you the most significant thing for them. They stayed in the Lodge. And they got to walk 12 steps to go play basketball anytime they wanted to,” he said. “Friday night, they stayed in the Craft Center until about 2:30. And then Saturday night, they stayed in the Craft Center until about 3:15. So that was a big deal for them.”
Is he worried his sons won’t get any sleep when they come play for the Cats in 2013?
“That is something I should be nervous about, huh?”
Marian Harrison, who her husband has said is not a big basketball fan and gets nervous when she watches her sons play, was awestruck by the crowd at Big Blue Madness.
“We walked in and they started chanting their names,” Harrison Sr. said. “And she was like, ‘Oh, what’s going on?’ Then they got up and waved at the student section, and they went into an uproar. And she said, ‘They’re actually cheering for them like that?’ She wasn’t expecting that.”
Harrison Sr. said his sons got to spend a lot quality time with fellow commitments James Young and Derek Willis, as well as Marcus Lee, the only uncommitted senior who attended Madness.
He said his sons have known Lee since they were 8 or 9 years old when Lee came to Texas to play in a youth tournament. The California forward, who’s expected to make a decision soon, has returned to Texas over the last few summers and has worked out with the Harrisons several times on those visits.
Harrison Sr., who coached his sons’ AAU team, compared Lee to Derrick Griffin, one of the twins’ AAU teammates who has committed to play basketball at Texas A&M.
“He feels comfortable with him,” Harrison Sr. said. “He sees what they have done (with Griffin) and he feels like he can fit in very well with that.”
An uncommitted recruit who didn’t make it to Madness was Julius Randle, who used an official visit to see UK last month and stayed back in Texas for his homecoming dance last weekend.
Harrison Sr. acknowledged news reports that have implied his sons and Randle don’t want to play together. Randle has denied those feelings in the past, and Harrison Sr. did the same Monday.
“When they committed, Julius called them and he tweeted his congratulations,” he said. “They’ve known him since they were 8 years old. His mother is a great lady, a really nice lady. All the reports that people heard are so far from the truth. They get along very well. They compete against each other, but then after the game’s over they hang around and talk.”
The elder Harrison said his sons have the reputation of being “tough guys,” and rumors that some players might not want to play with them could stem from that. Off the court, he says the “people that know them like them.” On the court, he agrees that they’re intense.
And he and his sons are fine with that characterization.
“I don’t want to get past it,” he said. “It’s a basketball game, right? They’re not coming there to be the most liked. They’re coming there to be basketball players. You have to be tenacious to be a basketball player.”