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Like most kids, the twins dabbled in other sports. They excelled at football, Andrew at running back and Aaron at quarterback. As an eighth-grader Aaron was courted by Texas, and when they went to high school both brothers signed up to play football. But when the coach told Andrew he didn't want to use him at running back—"said he was too tall," explains Harrison Sr.—Andrew quit. Aaron did too.
By then they had already started working with Lucas, the former Spurs and Cavaliers coach, traveling to his camps and training with him in the summer. Lucas's sessions are loaded with NBA players—J.R. Smith, Eric Maynor, DeAndre Jordan, among others—but Lucas could immediately see potential in this pair of lanky teenagers. "I've let only four high schoolers consistently work out with the pros: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Aaron and Andrew," says Lucas. "Their father, he did a great job with them. They are relentless, and they have a great understanding of the game."
With Lucas, the Harrisons polished their technique. "They both twisted a lot when they shot the ball," says Lucas. "We worked on keeping the feet straight, being able to pull up, learning how to cut people off and using their bodies. With their size, they have to be violent offensive players. They have to use their shoulders, use the physical gifts they have."
The twins' swagger was immediately evident. "They would see J.R. or Eric out there, and they would say, I want some of that," says Lucas. On a 2010 trip to Kentucky, the Harrisons spotted Wildcats freshman and future Pistons guard Brandon Knight working out. A Kentucky coach told the brothers that if they worked hard, they could be like Knight. Unmoved, Andrew insisted: I could lock him down right now. The coach asked Aaron if he felt the same way. Oh, yeah, Aaron said, Brandon Knight can't check me. "No matter who I play with, I feel like I'm the best," says Aaron. "That's how you have to play."
Many top prospects enroll at high-powered prep schools like Oak Hill Academy in Virginia or Findlay Prep in Nevada, and both were options for the Harrisons. Playing at Travis meant playing out of position on defense: As seniors the twins were the biggest players on the roster, so Aaron jumped center and both brothers defended opponents four or five inches taller. But transferring meant moving far from their family. It meant leaving behind teammates they had known since grade school. That wasn't going to happen. "We really just wanted to be teenagers and go to school with our friends," says Andrew. "We have plenty of time to go away and travel."
The Drivers Edge, the used-car dealership Harrison Sr. opened in 2008, sits on Katy Freeway in Houston. After stints as an Army medic and as an aviation boatswain in the Navy, he spent 20 years in automotive retail. He opened his own shop, he says, "because I got tired of watching other people make money" and because working for himself gave him more time to tend to the twins. The used-car business is a cliché for unsavory dealings, but it's nothing compared with college recruiting, which, Harrison told USA Today is "25 times worse."
The twins chose Kentucky largely because of Calipari, who was straight with them from the start. Harrison Sr. says, "He told Aaron and Andrew, 'I need guards to get it done. I want you, I need you, but Kentucky isn't for everybody. You come here, you are going to work.' " Calipari, according to Lucas, is the ideal teacher for the Harrisons. "They need a coach who isn't afraid of them," says Lucas. "They are scratching the surface of their talent, but it's going to take a strong coach to bring it out."
But Calipari may need the Harrisons more than they need him. Over the winter the twins watched as the dynasty they committed to crumbled. "There was no leadership on that team," says Aaron. "It looked like everyone had his own agenda." Next year the Harrisons and their fellow five-star recruits will join four returning starters: guard Ryan Harrow and forwards Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer. "That's as talented a young team as I have ever seen," says a Division I assistant coach. "If they come together like Cal thinks, it's game over. No one is going to be able to beat them."
Since Calipari arrived in 2009--10, Kentucky has had more one-and-done players (eight) than any other program, with two more (guard Archie Goodwin, who has already declared, and center Nerlens Noel, who is likely to) poised to join the list. A year from now the Harrisons could be done too. "You go to college to learn how to make money to earn a living," says Harrison Sr. "If [Aaron and Andrew] have an opportunity to do that in one year, why would I stop them? I sent them to Kentucky because I think it's the best system to play basketball. Let's not sugarcoat it and say they are going to be doctors. "
Doctors no, but they can heal the Wildcats. Sitting in a strip mall in suburban Houston, Aaron stressed that next season there will be only one acceptable result. "We're going down to win a national championship," says Aaron. "All of us who are going there, we talk about it; we know that's what we are going there to do. We know we will have a target on our backs. But we like that kind of pressure."