Twice as Nice
There's no sibling rivalry here; the Harrison twins are on the same team
The mere thought of Texas conjures up the image of big-time football. The Cowboys. The Texans. The Longhorns. Troy Aikman. Deion Sanders. Vince Young. Brian Orakpo. Earl Campbell, Friday Night Lights. We could go on for days.
It wasn’t too long ago that Andrew and Aaron Harrison were trying to make their names on the gridiron as well. Andrew, who wore number 21 as a nod to his favorite player, LaDanian Tomlinson, was in the backfield running through open gaps and juking his way through defensive fronts. His twin brother, Aaron, was the one under center playing quarterback putting the pigskin in his brother’s hands.
Flash forward to today and things have changed up quite a bit for the twins. Their sport of preference is different — now basketball reigns supreme. And the roles have flipped-flopped. Andrew is the distributor, known as one of the top point guards in the nation and Aaron, known as one of the top shooting guards in the country, is usuallyon the receiving end of those passes.
“It was fun to play football in middle school,” Aaron said. “But then, we just looked at our talents and knew that we had a chance to be a lot better in basketball.”
At 6’5’’, Andrew brings exceptional size to the point guard position for the Houston Defenders and Fort Bend Travis High School. Looking up to the likes of Derrick Rose and having the footwork a la Tomlinson to get into the paint, Andrew’s earned an overflowing amount of scholarship offers.
“Andrew is your prototypical point guard, it’s just that he is 6’5’’,” Fort Bend Travis head coach Craig Brownson said. “He understands how to get his teammates involved, he’s always trying to make the right decision on the court.”
Aaron is just as much of a problem for the opposition as his brother. He excels in transition, spotting up from three or using various moves to get into the paint and finish above the rim. He, too, has gathered anumber of scholarship offers.
“Aaron is more of a scorer,” Bronson said. “He can shoot from deep, get to the basket, get fouled, hit free throws.”After garnering so much attention, the brothers have decided to whittle down their lists to four schools — Kentucky, Baylor, Villanova and Maryland.
Aaron Harrison Sr. understands why his sons are among the most coveted players in the country.
“Their ball-handling ability and ability to get to the hoop,” are two of their greatest strengths, according to Harrison Sr.“If they have a smaller guard, they can overpower him,” he said. “If they have a bigger guard, they can go around him."
Players on the circuit already know the deal, including Baylor-bound and heralded prospect Isaiah Austin.
“The Harrison twins are nice, they take control of every game,” Austin said. “They just get into the lane all the time.”
“Arguably, the best two players on the court are always going to be on their team,” Brownson added.
You would think that their tight bond and high level of talent could create a friendly, but competitive sibling rivalry. You could just imagine them in the driveway, battling each other in games of one-on-one. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The duo hasn’t played a real game of oneon-one in years.
“We don’t play one-on-one,” Andrew Harrison said. “We are not looking to be better than each other or beat each other, we just want to be the best basketball players that we can be.”
That means drilling each other. Cone drills, dribble pull-ups, ball-handling, set shooting, defensive slides, finishing with the off-hand and isolation moves are all points of emphasis.
“We hold each other accountable and we push each other,” Andrew said. “I expect him [Aaron] to be perfect … I know he won’t be perfect but we push each other to be.”
The only time you’ll see them go head to head is on the sticks. With a Play Station 3 sitting between both of their beds, NBA2K12 is the game of choice and according to Andrew, he is generally the victor. He alternates between two teams — the Bulls and the Thunder — both of which, ironically, have freakishly athletic point guards with size and strength (Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook). His brother doesn’t fare as well, using scoring guards Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis (now-traded) of the Golden State Warriors.
While they might be dueling each other on the sticks, it’s almost certain that they will be starring in the same college backcourt. You might as well book the same dorm room for them as well.
“One night, they were in separate rooms in the house, and all they did was yell across the house all night just so they could hear each other,” Harrison Sr. recalled. “I went on vacation, when I came back, both of their beds were in the same room.”
The bond off the court is evident to onlookers.
“They might not be always together but they are always close,” Brownson said. “They know each other and have good chemistry. They know where which one is on the court at all times. The chemistry and the unspoken communication between them helps us immensely.”
That remains true for the entire family. The twins’ grandparents don’t live too far from them in Austin, Texas and were present for their state semifinal game against Warren this year. Once the game was over, they sought them out and shared a postgame meal. Late at night, the two can be found watching their favorite show, Martin, playing the PS3 or talking about the future.
You would think that some of those late night conversations would include discussions of the NBA at some point.
“No,” Aaron said. “We don’t even talk about that. We can’t look too ahead of ourselves. We still have a lot to do first.”
If they do talk about the future and basketball, it doesn’t extend past college. Is the dribble-drive offense of Kentucky the right fit? Should they stay home and play at Baylor? What about the guard-oriented style of Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats? Or the relationship they’ve long
held with Mark Turgeon and the Maryland Terrapins?
One of those late night discussions could lead to the changing of the college landscape.
“Both those kids are program-changers,” one Division I assistant told Five-Star. “You can give them the ball right away.”
Before they attempt to create that “One Shining Moment” in college, the Harrison brothers have unfinished business on the high school hardwood. In fact, one of their greatest memories was shared on the court together, when they took down Five-Star’s No. 1 ranked BABC, last year’s Nike Peach Jam champion, at the AAU Super Showcase. The win ensured the Defenders would finish the season as the No. 1 travel team in the country — not too bad for team led by two rising juniors.
“To get on ESPN and to win that title is something that I won’t forget,” Andrew said.
BABC probably won’t forget it either. Nor will the Oakland Soldiers, Eric Gordon All-Stars, Texas Titans or Mac Irvin Fire — all teams that seem to be fighting for that No. 1 spot.
“We know we’ll have the target on our backs this year coming in as the top team,” Aaron said. “I think we can handle that and we’ll have people step up.”
They will first have to address the loss of big man Shaquille Cleare. Cleare was among the top big ean in the nation last year, and helped provide interior strength and balance to the Harrisons’ perimeter attack. Now, with Cleare ready to suit up at Maryland in the fall, greater responsibility falls on the duo. While they’ll miss the heralded big man, there is way too much value in their backcourt presence to dismiss them as a contender.
“There are so many benefits to having two 6’5’’ guards on the court. It is a matchup problem right away for the other team,” Brownson said. “It makes it real difficult for us to get pressed. They can see over any pressure … They just complement and play off each other really well.”
During the travel season, you’re bound to see teams that have an abundance of talent and depth. Right now, the twins are the Defenders’ main attraction and their other pieces have gone relatively under the radar nationally. That could all change this summer as Aaron Sr. feels that guards Christian Sanders and Wesley Iwundu are due to make their own names on the court. But for now, the sheer presence of the duo can positively impact the team against the opposition.
“They never let the pressure unnerve them, it brings a sense of calm to the team. It’s hard to put into words but there is just a quiet confidence about them,” Brownson said. “If you watch their mannerisms when they are going through warm-ups or player introductions there is just a confidence that it gives the team to see them unnerved.”
Training for the AAU season starts soon and the twins are expected to come out with a purpose. Not just because they finished No. 1 last year, but their high school season at Fort Bend Travis didn’t necessarily finish according to plan.
Fort Bend Travis entered the season ranked No. 19 in the Five-Star/SI HighSchool Power Rankings (watch the final high school ranking show on Fivestarbasketball.com on April 4th), but lost a handful of games to fall out the mix. Then the playoffs came and they marched all the way to the finals before losing to Marcus in the state 4A championship game. Marcus features two Oklahoma State commits in Marcus Smart and Phil Forte.
“I hate to lose. The way I see it, the pain you feel in losing is greater than the joy you feel in winning,” Aaron Harrison Sr. said. “That’s the same way I brought them up.”
“They win so much, its like you can take it for granted when you win as much as they do,” Brownson said. “It hurt them. I know they’re thinking about missed shots. They’re not going to point fingers, they’ll look at themselves and see where they couldhave played better.”
That’s exactly the plan. Get even better so that sour taste of rare losing doesn’t come again. Andrew will be working on becoming a more consistent shooter. Aaron will try to tighten up his handle. They will both continue to work on their bodies and become even better athletes. For them, its all about refining an already coveted skill set.
“There is no weakness in their games,” Brownson said. “It’s just little things that they can keep improving and tweaking.”
By the time they’re done tweaking their skills, the Harrison brothers should be forces on the collegiate level and beyond. For right now, we’ll just leave the headache to opposing head coaches and players competing this summer on the circuit.