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Kentucky Wildcat Basketball: This Team Belongs to the Twins

Make no mistake about it, Andrew and Aaron Harrison should be the unquestioned leaders of this team.

Jamie Squire

Andrew and Aaron Harrison were supposed to be Kentucky Wildcats for one season and one season only. After all, Andrew was the top ranked point guard and Aaron was the top ranked shooting guard in arguably the most talented recruiting class of all time. Andrew was projected as a top ten draft pick and Aaron was a fringe lottery pick.

Their reputations preceded them as uber-talented, hardnosed players with a particular disdain for losing. Matt Jones liked to call them "Stone Cold Killers" whenever he discussed them on KSR the radio show or the website.

But their freshman year at Kentucky turned out to be something other than a one stop layover on the way to NBA stardom. Their reps as killers on the court quickly dissolved as their body language painted them as pouters and crybabies.  They quickly drew the ire of Big Blue Nation as their on-the-court demeanor did nothing to improve their play. Andrew struggled at times to run the offense and Aaron wasn't exactly the knock down shooter that he was thought to be as a recruit, and both had difficulty guarding smaller, quicker guards.

But in the face of all this adversity, they did have some big time games. Andrew had a couple of particularly inspired offensive games against Louisville and Tennessee with 18 and 26 points respectively. Aaron Harrison averaged the third most points per game on the team behind Julius Randle (15 ppg) and James Young (14.3 ppg). The potential was always there but it didn't truly manifest until the NCAA tournament.

But the season was a picture of uneven play, letdowns, and disappointments. And whether it was fair or unfair, Andrew and Aaron took the lion's share of the blame.

After Aaron Harrison vowed a storybook ending after an embarrassing SEC loss at South Carolina and John Calipari's now famous "tweak", the light came on for Andrew Harrison during the SEC tournament and continued into March. His decision making was better. He slowed the game down and tried to find teammates as he penetrated into traffic instead of just lobbing the ball blindly at the basket. The team was elevated with the improved play of the point guard.

And Aaron proved the Stone Cold Killer nickname to be a correct one as he hit shot after unbelievable shot to propel the ‘Cats to the national championship game against UConn.

As much as they were criticized during the regular season, they were applauded for the magical postseason run. While Julius Randle was the biggest talent on the team, the Harrison brothers were the spark that ignited the engine.

This recent quote from John Calipari sums up what the Harrisons Twins have gone through thus far at Kentucky:

They had habits they had to understand weren't going to work. Let me tell you something: If you're doing something your whole career and it gets you a scholarship to Kentucky - the most coveted scholarship in the country; ‘Just give me an offer so that I can publicly tweet that offer.' You did certain things to get that offer and that scholarship, now you're thinking, ‘What, I'm going to change?' Your first thought is, ‘This got me here. I'm going to go with it.' But what got you here, a lot of times, isn't going to get you to that next level.

Maybe it was the sting of losing in the national championship game, or the less than stellar projections in the NBA draft, or the need to prove something, or a combination of two or more factors, but Andrew and Aaron decided to stay for their sophomore season.

With their return, they give something that John Calipari has not had at Kentucky: experience at both positions in the back court. They also return slimmed down and toned up, ready to get down to business.

Andrew needs to be more vocal on the court, essentially being an extension of his coach. Aaron needs to be a dynamic scorer and someone that his brother can lean on during tough stretches in games. They have been through the deepest valleys and the highest peaks together in just one season at Kentucky.

Both have stated that they returned to win the national championship that they held in their grasp but let slip away. They are putting in the work and have been willing to make any and all changes necessary to become the elite players that everyone knows they can be.

With the addition of Tyler Ulis on the team, Andrew and Aaron will face in practice every day the type of guard that gave them so much trouble last season. Ulis is their secret weapon; a chance to strengthen a glaring weakness.

Andrew will have the longest, deepest, most athletic front court in college basketball to tinker with and a pure shooter in Devin Booker whom he can feed.

Andrew and Aaron are the most recognizable players on a star studded team, Aaron in particular due to his NCAA Tournament heroics. Everyone will be looking to them to provide the leadership needed for the Wildcats to finish what they started last season. With a renewed resolve to reach the highest level of their talent, I believe they can fulfill those expectations. The rest of the team will go as they go.

The NBA can wait. There is unfinished business that the Harrison twins have to address.