I mean, honestly, what did we expect to happen?
Did we really think that John Calipari and Kentucky were going to get beaten out by Maryland for two players — twins, no less — that they had been targeting?
We really thought Mark Turgeon and Maryland — neither of whom have a reputation for pulling in this kind of recruit — had a chance going toe-to-toe with the best recruiter in the country, who just may be the best recruiter ever?
The crazy thing is that, despite all the talk about Coach Cal doesn’t lose recruits he targets and how he has to be favored in every recruiting battle he is involved in, there wasn’t a single recruiting pundit who had any idea about where Andrew and Aaron Harrison were headed at the start of the ESPN U show where they made their announcement. That’s how real the chance was for Maryland to win the services of the Harrisons.
And that’s also why I believe this is the most impressive job Coach Cal has ever done on the recruiting trail.
The Harrison twins had, quite literally, EVERY reason in the world to go to Maryland. Their father grew up in East Baltimore and still has plenty of extended family in the area. Their father also has a terrific relationship with assistant Bino Ranson and with head coach Mark Turgeon, who he refers to as the “most upright citizen I have met in basketball” after seeing the way that Turgeon handled the death of a recruit named Tobi Oyedeji. The twins are also very close with a former AAU teammate named Shaquille Cleare, who is currently a freshman on the Maryland roster.
All that comes before you take into account the Under Armour factor. Under Armour was founded by a Maryland alum and former football player. Maryland is the apparel company’s flagship program, much the way that Oregon is for Nike. Under Armour has also sponsored the twin’s AAU team — coached by their father — for the past couple of summers. And pops also admitted to USA Today that the only person allowed to call his son’s cell phone was a rep from Under Armour.
Keep in mind, the last time that Coach Cal lost a recruiting battle — when Shabazz Muhammad opted to go to UCLA instead of Kentucky — it was quite obvious to those in the know what the outcome was. Why? Because Adidas had a firm grip on Muhammad. They sponsored his AAU team. They even had a sponsorship deal with his sister, who was a professional tennis player. There was no way they were letting him go to a school sponsored by Nike. If it wasn’t UCLA, he would have been headed to Kansas or Baylor or another program repping the three stripes. It seemed like Under Armour had a firm grip on the Harrisons.
In simpler terms, Coach Cal reached into Texas and beat out a school that had much better relationships with the players and that also happened to be the highest-profile program of the shoe company that had sponsored them throughout their last years in high school.
And he did it for a pair of twins, both of whom are consensus top five recruits, that complement each other perfectly in the back court and happen to be the best point guard (Andrew) and shooting guard (Aaron) in the class.
The stakes haven’t been higher for Cal, and his performance has never been better.
Good job, good effort, Maryland.
What else does Cal have left to prove?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.