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For those who know Aaron and Andrew Harrison best, telling the 18-year-old twins apart is simply a matter of attention to detail. Look past the similarities in height (6'5" to 6'6") and weight (210 pounds, give or take), ignore the mild-mannered demeanors and sly smiles, forget their shared taste in movies ("Law Abiding Citizen, Contraband," Andrew says, while Aaron nods) and music ("Any kind of rap," says Aaron, while Andrew smiles), and the differences will become clear. For their mother, Marian, it's in the slope of their foreheads. For coach Craig Brownson at Travis High in Richmond, Texas, it's in the shape of their faces. For former NBA coach John Lucas—who has worked with the twins in Houston for the last five years—it's.... O.K., maybe it is tough to tell them apart. "I've got to train them the same," says Lucas, "because I can't tell which one is which."
Watch them play though, and their individual talents stand out. Aaron is the scorer, the country's top-ranked shooting guard by Rivals.com, with NBA size and a seamless stroke. As a senior, he averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals and was named a McDonald's All-American. Andrew, younger by one minute, is the playmaker, also ranked No. 1 at his position. He picked up an All-American nod too, after averaging 14.1 points and 5.1 assists last season while dealing with a hamstring injury. At the McDonald's game in Chicago last week, the Harrisons didn't dominate statistically (16 points, nine assists between them), but they hardly went unnoticed. "They are really, really tough guards," said Aaron Gordon, the game's MVP. "When it comes down to crunch time, you really want them on your side."
At age four the twins started playing at Southwest Community Christian Center in Richmond, where their coach was Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy. By second grade they'd moved on to the Richmond YMCA, where they had to play on a sixth-grade team to find worthy competition for their two-pronged attack. As they progressed, they were paired up in AAU leagues and throughout high school, one year at Strake Jesuit College Prep and the last three at Travis. They were occasionally split up in practices, though coaches did so at their peril. Brownson ran a drill called identity defense, a five-on-five set that he poached during a visit to Butler, where the first side to get seven stops wins. "I put them on opposite teams for that," says Brownson. "Let's just say it went way over the budgeted time."
Lucas once suggested they face off in a scrimmage. Fine, Aaron told him, but you are going to start a skirmish. Sure enough, a few minutes into the game the twins were going at it. "They are killers," says Lucas. "Their competitiveness is unbelievable."
They will be together again next season, playing for coach John Calipari, at Kentucky, where they will headline an absurd freshman class (page 48). The 2012--13 season was a disaster for the Wildcats; the defending NCAA champions lost 12 games, missed the tournament and were eliminated in the first round of the NIT. Meanwhile, the twins led Travis to a Class 5A state title; they will be expected to do something similar in Lexington. "On paper, we are the best recruiting class ever," says Aaron. "Now we have to go out there and prove it."
Some nights Aaron Harrison Sr. would stare at the ceiling and wonder when the voices would stop. He and Marian bought a spacious, three-floor, six-bedroom house in Richmond in 2001 partly because of the revolving door of friends, family members and foster children who came to stay with them, partly because they wanted to give each twin his own room. But Aaron and Andrew had no interest in separate accommodations. When they hit a growth spurt at 12 and their bedroom wasn't big enough for two king-sized beds, they retreated to different rooms and yelled to each other across the hall. As he tried to sleep, Harrison Sr. had to tune out the sounds of brotherly chatter and trash talk above him. "It was 'You stunk up the gym today'," says the father. "Or 'I'm going to dominate you tomorrow.' For them, it was like having a sleepover with your best friend your whole life." They lasted three months before moving into the game room.
The twins learned the game from their 6'3" father, a manager of a car dealership and a regular on the Houston rec league scene. They joined the AAU circuit when they were seven. It was stiffer competition than the Y, and in a league that included eight-year-olds, they played only two minutes per game. When they complained, Harrison Sr. told them that if they wanted to get on the court, they had to work. So they did, going at it every day on a hoop in the driveway. Games were intense, and Harrison Sr. became the unofficial referee. On a questionable call the twins would storm into the house and ask for a ruling. When Dad wasn't home, they would track him down. "I'd be sitting in meetings, and my phone would ring," says Harrison Sr. "It would be Andrew or Aaron asking me about a traveling call."
By the time the next season started, the boys' games had grown. In the first practice Andrew pulled down a rebound, dribbled up the court and scored. The coach blew the whistle and chastised him for not giving the ball to a guard. Upset, Harrison Sr. approached the coach after practice. "My question was, These kids are eight and nine years old, who is a guard?" says Harrison. "Kids can get messed up when you treat them like that." Harrison moved his sons to a different team and took on the role of assistant coach.
Coach Harrison knew which buttons to push. To combat complacency, before every game Harrison would tell his kids that the guys they were going up against were much better. "It would be, This guy is going to kill you, or You can't check this one," says Andrew. Before the All-American game last week, Harrison told the twins that Dallas's Keith Frazier—who suited up for the opposite team—was the best guard in Texas. "Most of the time they ignore me now," says Harrison. "But for a while I could really get them going."
Over the course of two seasons Andrew, the better ballhandler, became the point guard while Aaron settled in alongside him. Grambling offered them scholarships when they were in fifth grade; Baylor held out until they were skilled 6'2" seventh-graders.