ARLINGTON, Texas - Kentucky coach John Calipari jokes about how he made twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison get different haircuts early in the season so he could tell them apart. The natural tendency, of course, is to assume that twins are exactly alike, but that wasn't the case with the Harrisons.
Once Calipari figured that out and adjusted their roles, his backcourt troubles cleared up, and the Wildcats (28-10) came together in time to reach the Final Four against Wisconsin (30-7) in Saturday night's late semifinal at AT & T Stadium. Instead of treating them as clones, Calipari emphasized Andrew's point guard skills and Aaron's shooting ability.
"Everybody was piling on them like it was something they did," Calipari said Friday of critics who blamed the Harrisons for Kentucky's season-long struggles. "Andrew, I did him a disservice this year for most of the year.
"[After the role change], I said, 'Make me look good because the way I was doing this was a disservice to you.' As he got better, you saw everybody on our team get better."
Interestingly, Andrew sounds as though he's not entirely convinced the definition of roles was necessary. "Aaron can play both positions, but as you see, he can hit some big shots," Andrew said. "I guess that's our natural positions, but I think we're interchangeable."
What Andrew acknowledges is that the pressure of such high expectations for Kentucky's all-freshman starting five and the anticipation of a possible one-and-done move to the NBA draft was weighing on him. Calipari said the twins' bad body language reflected it.
"I guess I wasn't having as much fun as I usually did, [and] showing it was the worst part," Andrew said. "I think I'm improving. That's what I'm trying to work on."
The twins' father, Aaron Sr., also relieved some pressure by telling his sons the family's financial situation is fine and that there's no urgency for them to enter the NBA draft. "It meant a lot," Andrew said. "My dad basically told me, 'Don't worry about next year and the draft. Just worry about playing basketball right now.'
"But it's hard not to think about it because that's your future. That's what you want to do. People start criticizing, and it messes with you a little bit."
Questions about the twins' readiness for the NBA have ebbed, and their draft stock has climbed with improved performances in the NCAA Tournament. Aaron Harrison, who hit the game-winning three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in the Midwest Regional final victory over Michigan, believes the clarification of the twins' roles helped.
"Andrew has been playing point guard my whole life," Aaron said. "He was a pass-first point guard, and that's what he's gotten back to throughout the whole postseason. I shot it better than he did when we were younger, so I think that's how we evolved into our positions."
The Harrisons agree that Kentucky's struggles made them stronger, and now that the criticism has turned to applause, basketball is fun again.
"Going through it with my brother definitely made it a lot easier," Andrew said. "It's just nice to be here right now."