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INDIANAPOLIS -- They all giggle about it. About them.
Mention Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and the Kentucky Wildcats begin to chuckle. The potent pair who has helped the program rise to a third Final Four in four seasons -- this one more improbable than the others -- is a staple of this movement.
They're a focused duo on the court. Off the court? Well, that's why their teammates can't stop laughing. The Harrisons are also the jesters in the locker room.
|Freshmen Andrew, left, and Aaron Harrison, right, have Kentucky's national title hopes planted squarely on their shoulders.|
Dominique Hawkins is dying to tell the joke that tore the house down earlier this season, but he just can't.
"I do have one, but I don't want to talk about it," Hawkins said. "It's not appropriate. We all crack on each other. We love having fun together. We're coming together as a team more because of that."
In August, the Wildcats were world-beaters and, eventually, the No. 1 team in the preseason polls. Then, while stumbling through the SEC season, they were disappointments. Now, they're just breathtaking.
The Harrisons, identical teenage twins from Richmond, Texas, have been essential in this run. A strong backcourt is the anchor for most programs that find success in March. But it's difficult to surge toward the Final Four with freshmen guiding other freshmen. Folks will mention the 2011-12 Kentucky team, but those Wildcats had senior Darius Miller and sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones.
They weren't this young.
And that's why this Final Four run is more impressive than John Calipari's previous treks to college basketball's biggest stage during his time at Kentucky. He's counting on a couple of 19-year-olds to steer this thing.
The Harrisons' relationship certainly helps. But the twins' bond with their teammates and their lighthearted ways have also made them the perfect engine for the program.
"I always know what he's about to do," Andrew said. "He gets on me; I get on him. So we understand each other."
Added Aaron: "I've been playing with my brother my whole life, so whenever we do split apart, it's going to be kind of hard."
Throughout the NCAA tournament, Andrew and Aaron have been John Coltrane and Miles Davis for the jazziest crew in North Texas. They've worked together to turn the abundance of weapons on Kentucky's roster into the monster we see now.
Aaron's game winner against Michigan in the Elite Eight was the highlight of a postseason packed with big moments. He averaged 12.6 points per game during SEC play. Through four tourney games, however, he's averaging 16. He's also 13-for-24 from the 3-point line (54 percent).
Andrew, a point guard, has been the maestro of Calipari's attack. He's averaging 12.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.5 turnovers in the NCAA tournament.
They're so united that Andrew knew as soon as he gave his brother the ball he would sink the shot that beat Michigan on Sunday with 2.6 seconds to play.
"You don't really have to tell him anything to give him confidence," Andrew said. "I'm a little different from him. No one can tell him he's not the greatest. And that's a good thing."
|When Aaron Harrison let go of the 3-point shot that would send Kentucky to the Final Four, both he and his brother knew it was going in.|
Added Aaron: "I thought it was going in when I took it. I really wasn't afraid to miss."
Andrew also knows his brother well off the floor, so he never expects his twin's hotel room to be clean.
"I think my room is a little ... actually, his room is kind of dirty, too," Aaron said. "My room is probably dirtier, definitely."
Andrew said, and his teammates agreed, he's more serious and business-like. You can see it on the floor. He's more intense. Aaron is more of a free spirit. And he's also the one who runs to the spotlight.
"Andrew is a little bit more serious," Hawkins said. "Aaron, he's goofing around. But they both goof around a lot. Actually, it's hard to tell you [how they're different] because they act the same. They crack jokes on people all the time. You can talk to them about anything."
It wasn't always this way, this unison and its clear effect on the program. Calipari had to make some adjustments. Their collective talent was never in question, but their overall demeanor was.
"The biggest thing we had to help them with was body language," Calipari said during Monday's Final Four media teleconference. "As that changed, they became different players. The second thing was, we had to define the roles better, and I did a poor job of that until late in the year."
Now, they're the fist-pumping, clutch-shot-making, championship-pursuing youngsters who've helped this talented Kentucky team earn another opportunity to win a national title. Kentucky wouldn't be here without them.
"They've been very important," Hawkins said. "Andrew, he's been a vocal leader and he's been working on how to lead a team. Aaron, he's being a leader, too. But it's not by vocal. It's by what he's doing."