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Harrison twins to make college decision at 5 p.m.

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Harrison twins to make college decision at 5 p.m.

By JP Finlay
CSNbaltimore.com

At 5 p.m. on Thursday the fortunes for the Maryland Terrapins basketball team will change drastically. Or they won't.

A pair of incredibly talented high school hoopsters from Texas, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, will decide between the Terps and the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats.

The amount of hype for the Houston area brothers is hard to imagine; the Harrison twins have been featured in most every major publication in the country and the decision between Kentucky and Maryland will air live on ESPNU.

Most high-school basketball recruiting experts share the view that the Harrisons will immediately transform whatever team they join into a Final Four contender.

Predictions also say that the Harrisons will play for one year in college before bolting to the greener pastures of the NBA. Aaron, a 6'5", 205 lb. shooting guard, and Andrew, a 6'5" 210 lb. point guard, are considered NBA lottery picks, a draft position no Maryland player has attained since Chris Wilcox in 2002.

At first glance, one might thing that Maryland has little business recruiting players of this caliber.

The Terps have not landed two consensus Top 5 players in the same recruiting class in at least a few decades, and possibly never. Legendary Maryland coach Lefty Driesell recruited at a very high level for many years, but the Harrison twins are spoken of as the best "package deal" in college hoops history.

Gary Williams, Maryland's more recent coaching legend and the only coach to deliver a national championship to College Park, rarely brought in nationally recognized recruits like the Harrisons. Williams achieved his highest levels with players that were under-looked by other programs and developed into stars at Maryland.

However, current Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has made recruiting a high priority.

In his first year at the helm of the Terps, Turgeon has brought in a Top 20 recruiting class according to most recruiting outlets, and the coaching staff is active with many of the best players throughout the country. But Maryland is going up against Kentucky -- college basketball royalty -- and its famed head coach John Calipari.

Calipari has many critics and a history of NCAA violations at previous coaching stops in Memphis and UMass, but nobody can dismiss his recruiting prowess.

Calipari routinely brings in the best talent in the country before sending players on to the pro level. Kentucky is a national college basketball brand and has arguably the largest, most hoops-crazed fan base in the country. They won the title last year and made the Final Four in 2011.

Although Maryland has a strong basketball tradition and William's 2002 title, the Terps have not even made the NCAA tournament in two years and had some down years in the decade since the championship.

On the surface, the Harrisons would be crazy to go anywhere but Kentucky. But this thing has many layers.

Turgeon, formerly of Texas A&M before coming to Maryland, has known the Harrison twins for years. Aaron Harrison Sr., the twins father and AAU basketball team coach, has a good relationship with Turgeon, and an even better relationship with Maryland assistant coach Bino Ransom.

Harrison Sr. grew up in Baltimore and has known Ransom since they were both school boy athletes. Though the family currently lives in Texas, the Harrison family has firm roots in Baltimore and family that still lives in the area.

Shaquille Cleare, a freshman big man from Texas and former AAU teammate of the Harrisons, will play at Maryland this fall. Cleare, by way of Twitter, is friends with the Harrisons and has encouraged the duo to join him in College Park.

The recruitment also goes beyond just geographic connections to the Harrison's family. Enter the shoe companies.

For more than two decades, sneaker companies have played a major role in college basketball recruiting. This has rarely worked to Maryland's benefit. That may have changed now, with Maryland's intricate relationship with athletic apparel company Under Armour.
A recent USA Today article highlights the ties that the Harrison family has to the Baltimore-based company, specifically the head of basketball marketing for Under Armour Chris Hightower. What that means for the twins college choice remains to be seen.

Under Armour is not Nike, the sneaker company of choice at Kentucky. Nike is the big boy on the block, the dominant player in AAU basketball. But Under Armour is cool, a new player on the scene that is unafraid to take on Nike.

In college basketball recruiting, that means sponsoring AAU teams. AAU teams are traveling amateur basketball clubs, and a big sneaker contract can pay for teams and players to travel the country and play in tournaments that college coaches attend.

Harrison Sr. coaches his twin sons on a Houston-area AAU team sponsored by Under Armour. By some accounts, this may be more important than any familiarity the Harrison's have with Maryland, the coaching staff, or Cleare. Then again, it may not.

Somewhere in all this mystery, two high school kids have to make a decision. It could be Kentucky. It could be Maryland.

Kentucky has a mountain of momentum, and the appeal of recent success. Maryland has had its successes too, but they do not match Kentucky's. What Maryland does have is family, friends, and Under Armour.
Will it be enough?

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Morrissey to have hearing for body slamming Oshie, here’s why a suspension is likely

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USA Today

Morrissey to have hearing for body slamming Oshie, here’s why a suspension is likely

In what was an injury-filled day for the Capitals, the exclamation point of the night on Wednesday was a vicious body slam by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey to T.J. Oshie.

Late in the game, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared dazed after the play and now Morrissey may have to answer for the play.

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Morrissey will have a hearing for what it calls interference/unsportsmanlike conduct on Oshie. A date and time for the hearing have not yet been determined.

Chances are, Morrissey is not going to walk away from that hearing unscathed.

The DPS already set precedent for a similar hit earlier in the season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community. Some say Matheson was only finishing his check and the play looked worse than it was because Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. Morrissey will not be able to make that argument considering both he and Oshie are listed at 195 pounds by their respective teams.

Also working against Morrissey is the fact that he is a repeat offender after he was suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a cross-check to Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal.

With no practice on Thursday, it is unclear if Oshie has suffered any injury from the play, something else the DPS takes into consideration when determining suspensions. Considering his concussion history, however, seeing him slammed to the ice in the manner he was on Wednesday was a troubling sight.

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Why the 20-game marker of the season counts for these Wizards

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USA Today Sports

Why the 20-game marker of the season counts for these Wizards

The Washington Wizards improved to 5-9 with Wednesday’s 119-95 enjoyable destruction of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their three-game winning streak pushed the Wizards within 1 ½ games of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Nobody should burn much energy on the postseason chase in mid-November. However, history suggests trouble brewing if they don’t crack the top-8 this season by Nov. 26.

The date doesn’t actually matter. It’s about where it falls on Washington’s schedule. There is no true line of demarcation to indicate when those analyzing a team’s season can forgo with the “it’s still early” caveat.

Many suggest 20 regular season games eclipse small sample size talk. The Wizards hosts reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden and the Houston Rockets on that post-Thanksgiving evening.

When it comes to projecting which teams will make the playoffs, that 20-game marker proves quite accurate. That is why the Wizards need to continue surging.

Each season 16-playoff spots are available, split evenly between the Eastern and Western Conference. The league-wide schedule doesn’t work out cleanly where all NBA teams reach 20 games at the exact same time so we’ll use the Wizards’ as the pivot point.

Over the last five seasons, teams that occupied a playoff berth at the point where the Wizards played their 20th game held on to one of those 16 annual slots 83.7 percent of the time.

2017-18

East -- At the point Washington played 20 games, 7 of 8 teams seated in a playoff berth held on over the course of 82 games. The Pistons fell from second to the lottery while the Heat moved from 9th place into the elite eight. (Wizards start 7th at 11-9, finish 8th at 43-39)

West – 7 of 8. Nuggets fall; Thunder rise.

2016-17

East -- 5 of 8. Hornets, Knicks, Pistons; Pacers, Hawks, Wizards. (Wizards start 12th at 7-13, finish 4th at 49-33)

West – 8 for 8


2015-16

East -- 7 of 8. Bulls; Pistons. (Wizards start 11th at 9-11, finish 10th at 41-41)

West -- 7 of 8. Jazz; Blazers

2014-15

East -- 7 of 8. Magic; Celtics. (Wizards start T-2 at 14-6, finish 5th at 46-36)

West -- 7 of 8; Suns; Pelicans

2013-14

East -- 6 of 8. Pistons, Celtics; Raptors, Nets. (Wizards start 7th at 9-11, finish 5th at 44-38)

West -- 6 of 8. Nuggets, Suns; Warriors, Grizzlies.

Within each situation, explanations exist. The 2015-16 Bulls began the season with core players available, but their top-4 scorers including Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose missed a combined 50 games. Most of those absences came after the 20-game mark.

The 2017-18 Thunder needed an extra beat to find a rhythm with newly added All-Star Paul George. From an 8-20 start, they finished fourth in the Western Conference.

These 5-9 Wizards have their own tale. Eight of their opening 12 games were on the road. Washington lost six of eight. It also began the season without starting center Dwight Howard for the first seven games and opened 1-6.

“I think it’s different for team to team,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said of how and when to assess teams early in seasons. “I think for [the Wizards], they’ve played a brutal schedule and then when you have a guy (Howard) who is going to be a big part of your team but is injured and couldn’t practice, it’s going to be longer even though they have a core group that has played together. …No matter what, schedule and health are a big part of it.”

Those aren’t the only factors, of course. Sometimes teams start as they finish. The Wizards going from 3-9 to 49 wins is often mentioned as the potential for this season, which began 2-9. Few note the 2015-16 campaign, the final one before head coach Scott Brooks’ arrival. That Washington team, loaded with upcoming free agents just like the current squad, essentially remained outside the playoff picture throughout.

Will these Wizards follow one of those paths or forge another? We’ll find out over the months ahead. Of course, just making the playoffs was never the goal for a team that reached the postseason in four of the previous five seasons. That’s according to Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.

“Well, we want to make the playoffs. We want 50 wins and I’d like to set a bar that says if we can’t get by the first round and the second round then we didn’t meet our goals,” Leonsis said in September.

For the franchise’s first 50-win since the 1978-79 season, the Wizards need a 45-23 record over the final 68 games. That 66.2 winning percentage required would have placed Washington third in the Eastern or Western Conference last season.

To advance to the conference finals, the Wizards likely need homecourt advantage in at least the first round. Over the last five seasons that meant winning at least 48 games. History suggests there isn’t much change among the top-4 seeds as 75 percent (30 of 40) of the top-4 seeds at the point when the Wizards have played 20 regular season games maintain that status.

2017-18

East -- 3 of 4; 76ers 5th to 3rd

West -- 3 of 4; Thunder T-9th to 4th

2016-17

East -- 3 of 4 (Wizards 12th to 4th)

West – 4 of 4

2015-16

East -- 3 of 4; Hawks rose from 8th to 4th, but their 58.5 winning percentage remained the same

West -- 3 of 4; Clippers 5th to 4th

2014-15

East -- 3 of 4; Bulls 5th to 3rd

West -- 3 of 4; Clippers 5th to 3rd

2013-14

East -- 2 of 4; Raptors 9th to 3rd, Bulls 8th to 4th

West -- 3 of 4; Clippers 5th to 3rd

If this three-game winning streak shows what is possible, the Wizards could reach the top-8 by the 20-game mark, though the schedule difficulty increases beyond Friday’s home meeting with Brooklyn. Also, look further up the standings. The Wizards are actually only three games out of the third seed; Indiana and Boston are 8-6.

The Wizards need to keep making moves, but they don’t need to fix all their ills over the next week either.

“They say it’s a marathon, and it is,” Brooks said after the Wizards fell to 1-6 on Oct. 30 following a loss in Memphis.

Brooks’ point was and is fair, but off-kilter starts can doom even Olympic runners over long distances. At some point along the journey, the pace must increase and assessments over what’s transpired kick in.