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Freshmen Find Familiarity in Kentucky Roster

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March 21, 2014
By Kelly McHugh

ST. LOUIS - On Sunday afternoon when freshman Wesley Iwundu found out he'd be playing Kentucky in his first-ever NCAA Tournament game, he knew his phone was quickly about to fill with text messages. 

"The first thing I thought about was the twins; I played with them during my AAU days," Iwundu said.

Back before college, when Kentucky freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison were among the nation's most heavily recruited players, they spent plenty of time on the court competing alongside Iwundu during AAU competition. The Harrison twins' father, Aaron Sr., was the coach of that AAU team, so it's a family Iwundu knows quite well.

Fast-forward a year, and tonight's matchup between K-State and Kentucky will be a dynamic reunion where business - basketball - comes first, and friendship comes second.

"We're both competitors," Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison said yesterday afternoon. "We're both going to try to win and play hard, but at the end of the day, he's like family to me. So we're going out to win the game, but we'll be friends after it."

Among Kentucky's top players, Aaron and Andrew are averaging 14.5 and 13.8 points per game, respectively. Aaron has started every game this season for Kentucky and Andrew has started all but one. Together, the two have recorded 43 double-digit scoring performances and have combined to total 838 points. 

"It'll be a reunion. It's going to be fun, but at the same time, it's business," Iwundu said. "After the game, after the outcome, we'll talk, but it's business, all business."

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While Iwundu played on the same team with the Harrison twins, teammate Marcus Foster is also familiar with them as played against all three in AAU. Foster often found himself guarding Andrew back then and is excited for the matchup again tonight. 

"I had to guard (Andrew) all the time," explained Foster. "He's gotten way better since high school, and he was really talented in high school. He's brought his game to another whole level at Kentucky."

Both Texas natives, Foster and Iwundu have also played against Kentucky's leading scorer, freshman Julius Randle (from Dallas, Texas) whose average of 15 points per game is a team-best.

While Kentucky's talented freshmen are the highlight of its team, the K-State freshmen have been getting the job done on the court as well.

Foster goes into tonight's game averaging 15.6 points per game and has started all 32 of K-State's games this season, while Iwundu has been a consistent factor towards the Wildcats' success as he's averaging 6.7 points per game and has 31 starts.

On Foster, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said, "He's terrific. When you watch him, he has no fear. I talked to our freshmen from Texas about him and they said, 'We knew who he was.' He's fun to watch, not sure he's going to be fun to play against, but he's fun to watch."

It'll be a battle of youth tonight with plenty of freshmen from Texas to keep an eye on.

But back to that text message chain...

"It was really just a lot of goofy stuff," laughed Aaron. "A lot of funny stuff. Wesley is really funny. On our AAU team, he's probably the funniest guy."

With that, Iwundu smiled and let out a laugh.

"It's been a little trash talk, jabbing. We're just ready to get out there and have fun," he said. "It's exciting. We always liked to play against each other. It's like a big family reunion in St. Louis."

And that's exactly what it'll be: a great big, Texas family reunion between the K-State Wildcats and the Kentucky Wildcats on one of basketball's biggest stages.

 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHughMark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.