Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker Await Harrison Twins Decision, Will Fight for Starting Roles
By JOHN PAVIA
Special to ZAGSBLOGNEW YORK — With Willie Cauley-Stein‘s recent decision to return to Kentucky and put off the NBA Draft for at least another year, the focus has shifted to Andrew and Aaron Harrison as they look to make their decision in the near future. Their respective decisions will affect the two guards committed to play at Kentucky next year, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, both of whom are in town for Friday evening’s Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center.
The Harrisons started at point guard and shooting guard, respectively, this season for coach John Calipari‘s Wildcats as they made a run to the national championship game against Connecticut as the eighth seed in the Midwest Region.
Andrew, who played point guard, averaged 10.9 points and four assist per game while his brother, Aaron averaged 13.7 points and three rebounds per game as the shooting guard.
On ESPN’s Top 100, Ulis is the fourth-ranked point guard and Booker is the third-ranked shooting guard so whether the Harrison twins will be back next year or not will simply determine whether or not there is a logjam in the backcourt to go along with the stacked frontcourt Kentucky will have next year due to Cauley-Stein’s return. The Wildcats also have Trey Lyles, the second-ranked power forward and Karl-Anthony Towns, the third-ranked center coming to play alongside Ulis and Booker next season.
“It’s great that Willie’s staying, coming back, that gives us another 7-footer on the team,” Ulis said after practice at Basketball City in Manhattan. “He’s great blocking shots, he’s good around the rim, rebounding the ball, running the floor and I think that’s great for me as a point guard because when I see bigs running the floor I’m going to feed them, throw it up court to them. So I think it’s going to work out well.”
Booker echoed Ulis’ sentiment.
“It’s big for us, we’ve got a rim protector,” he said. “Marcus Lee is a rim protector also, but there’s only one Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s a special player. He sets good screens, rebounds and blocks shots. That’s probably what he’s best at, blocking shots. That’s just someone that you want around, a rim protector and also we’re going to have experience coming back.”
Ulis touched upon what Calipari has planned for him and Booker regardless of whether the Harrisons return to Kentucky or not.
“Coach Cal told me that even if they [Harrisons] leave or stay that I’ll have to earn my position,” he said. “If they stay, that would be great for our team. That gives us a few more bodies and the bench will be pretty good as well. If they stay, that’s a decision and I just want them to make the best decision for them.”
While a return for the Harrison twins might mean a bench role or less playing time for Ulis, there is the possibility of him sharing the court with one or both of them at the same time.
“Andrew’s 6-foot-5, he’s big too. I’m pretty sure if he stays we’d be on the court at one time or another together,” he said. “Coach Cal hasn’t talked much about their decision. We’re just waiting to see what they’re going to do. I’m pretty sure Coach Cal will let us play together. He’s just going to put whoever is producing on the floor.”
Booker, a potential backcourt mate for Ulis, offered his thoughts on what may come of the Harrisons’ decision in the near future.
“I think that would be good for us if they [Harrisons] come back,” he said. “Like I said, more experience, but I wish the best for them. That’s their decision and I wish the best for them. I think they’d be good either way because I’ve played against them and they’re really good players. I really respect them.”
He also discussed how he sees next year going both individually and for the Wildcats as a whole.
“I just want to fit into the team and play my game,” Booker continued. “I don’t want to get too caught up in all the media, like I felt they did at the beginning of the year. I just want to play my own game look to win and try to get wins with the team. After this year’s long run, I think everyone is expecting a championship after them coming up short in the championship.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.