Redskins

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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Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

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USA Today Sports Images

Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

We don’t know if there will be major changes on the Redskins if they don’t make the playoffs this year but getting into the postseason and getting a win when they get there would make a decision to keep going in this direction very easy.

Yes, a lot of the pressure lies on the shoulders of Jay Gruden but winning games usually comes down to the players on the field. How do the players the Redskins have today compare to those on the last team that made the playoffs?

Here are the players who started in the last playoff game that involved the Redskins, a 35-20 Wild Card round home loss to the Packers, side-by-side with the anticipated starting lineup for the 2018 season with some unscientific comparison of the quality of the two teams.

Offensive line

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
LT—Trent Williams, Williams
LG—Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao
C—Kory Lichtensteiger, Chase Roullier
RG—Brandon Scherff, Scherff
RT—Morgan Moses, Moses

How do the 2018 versions of Williams, Moses, and Scherff compare to the ones who started the playoff game? They’ll be about three years older but they have gained valuable experience. Remember that Lichtensteiger was activated off of injured reserve the week before the playoff game after missing 11 games with a neck injury so he was not close to 100 percent against the Packers. Josh LeRibeus was center for most of the year. Roullier is at least a good as he was. Long is no All-Pro but he is better than Lauvao. Comparison: Even

Offensive backs and receivers

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
QB—Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith
RB—Alfred Morris, Derrius Guice
WR—Jamison Crowder, Crowder
WR—Pierre Garçon, Josh Doctson
WR—DeSean Jackson, Paul Richardson
TE—Jordan Reed, Jordan Reed

We can debate Smith vs. Cousins all day but we really won’t know until they start playing games. Guice has the potential to be better than the 2015 version of Morris, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry while gaining 751 yards. Reed has his best season in 2015 with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was arguably the best tight end in the game in 2015. Reed has to demonstrate that he can be that guy again. Crowder will be better than he was as a rookie but there are clear downgrades at the wide receiver positions. Comparison: Edge to 2015

Defensive front

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
DE—Chris Baker, Matt Ioannidis
NT—Terrance Knighton, Daron Payne
DE—Jason Hatcher, Jonathan Allen
ILB—Mason Foster, Foster
ILB—Will Compton, Zach Brown
OLB—Ryan Kerrigan, Kerrigan
OLB—Trent Murphy, Preston Smith

I don’t think we need to go into much discussion here to sort out which team has the better front seven. The interior line plus Brown makes this year’s front clearly superior. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

Secondary

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
CB—Will Blackmon, Josh Norman
CB—Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar
SS—DeAngelo Hall, Montae Nicholson
FS—Dashon Goldson, D.J. Swearinger

Breeland was very good in 2015, tallying two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two recoveries. Dunbar could be a downgrade but I don’t think he’ll be a significant one. This year’s team is clearly better off at the other three positions. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

If defense wins championships then you have to give the overall edge to this year’s team. But the offense will be important and Smith, Guice, and the wide receivers will need to come through if the Redskins are going to play a game in January of 2019.

More 2018 Redskins

- The secondary: What's the outlook in the secondary?
- Tandler’s Take: The pressure's on Gruden and he knows it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

 

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Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

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Associated Press

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

The Washington Wizards have an opening on their coaching staff, as assistant Sidney Lowe has left the team to join the Detroit Pistons.

Lowe, according to ESPN, will be the top assistant on new Pistons coach Dwane Casey's staff. 

Lowe spent two seasons under head coach Scott Brooks in Washington. A D.C. native, Lowe starred at DeMatha High School before playing at NC State and then in the NBA.

Lowe was the head coach at his alma mater for five years from 2006 through 2011, but has otherwise been an NBA lifer. He served as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1993-94 and head coach of the Grizzlies from 2000 to 2002.

The Wizards have several coaching hires to make now. They have a new G-League team set to take the court in the fall and will need to hire a staff sometime this summer. 

With Lowe gone, they could choose to promote from within or go outside the organization.

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