Recruiting stories here at MrSEC.com are usually handled by Josh Ward on our Recruiting page, but this one’s got a little extra juice courtesy of CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish. That’s why we’re homepaging it.
Today at 5pm ET, Andrew and Aaron Harrison — highly recruited twin guards from Texas — will make their college announcement. The race is down to John Calipari at Kentucky and Mark Turgeon at Maryland. According to the players’ father, “nobody knows nothin’” about which school the boys will pick.
But here’s where Parrish comes into the fray. In his view, this fight isn’t between the Wildcats and Terrapins or even Calipari and Turgeon. It’s between the Big Blue and Under Armour:
“The Harrison twins are consensus top-five national prospects in the Class of 2013 who live just outside Houston. They are both guards. They are both future lottery picks. They are good enough together to make just about any program a contender for the 2014 Final Four, which is why they’ve long been Kentucky and Maryland’s primary recruiting targets. But that doesn’t mean they’re actually picking between Kentucky and Maryland. I mean, technically they are, I guess. But the reality is that the names and locations of the schools are less important than the man coaching one of them and the shoe company supporting the other. The truth is that this is about John Calipari vs. Under Armour, and that’s why this soon-to-be-decided recruiting battle is this year’s most fascinating by a wide margin.
So who’s gonna win?
Will it be the biggest and baddest recruiter the sport has ever seen or the still relatively young shoe company that A) was founded by a Maryland graduate, B) now outfits the Maryland athletic department and C) spent the past two summers funding a summer team led by the Harrison Twins and run by their father? Will it be Coach One-and-Done or the school connected to a company that employs somebody named Chris Hightower, whom Aaron Harrison Sr. acknowledged toUSA Today is the only adult who was allowed to directly contact his sons throughout most of their recruitment? Will it be The Swoosh or We Must Protect this House?…
‘Without Under Armour supporting the Harrison’s [summer] team and making friends with the family, there’s no logical way for anyone to think Maryland could compete head-to-head with Kentucky on two people like this from Texas,’ said former Nike, Reebok and adidas executive Sonny Vaccaro, a man who knows a thing or two about influencing with shoe-company money. ‘There’s no way Nike and John Calipari, in a head-to-head fight for recruits they seriously target who don’t have an umbilical-cord connection to another school, should ever lose a guy. It’s illogical to think it could happen. But in the world we live in it’s very logical, and it might happen here because there’s a new player in the game.’
That new player is Under Armour.”
If anyone knows anything about the ability of shoe companies to lure/coax/bait recruits into signing with a school it’s the legendary Vaccaro. (Free tip: The book’s nearly a quarter-century old, but for a good read on Vaccaro and the filthy underbelly of college basketball recruiting, pick up a copy of “Raw Recruits.”)
Wow, whodathunkit? A shoe company getting involved in basketball recruiting.