Henry good or bad for KU?
At 10:48 p.m. CT Tuesday, Xavier Henry ended one of the most bizarre recruiting sagas in recent history by sending a text message to a Kansas City radio station.
“I’m goin’ to Kansas,” Henry wrote to 610 Sports, “and that’s final.”
Throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning, Kansas fans rejoiced in Internet chat rooms. They traded messages on Facebook and boasted on Twitter. Still, deep down, even the most ardent Jayhawk supporter had to be wondering: Was Tuesday’s news really all that good?
Or could it actually be bad?
The eighth-ranked player in the Class of 2009 by Rivals.com, Henry initially signed with Memphis so he could play with his older brother C.J. But when Tigers coach John Calipari left for Kentucky in April, Xavier got out of his letter-of-intent and announced that he and C.J. would enroll at Kansas, where the only missing ingredient to the Jayhawks’ national title quest was a long, 6-foot-6 wing who could either slash to the basket or score from long range.
Now Kansas has that player in Xavier Henry, but there’s a fear that he might not be a good fit.
If his plan comes to fruition, Henry will enter the NBA draft after his freshman season. Kansas has never had a player turn pro after one year – and it’s certainly not used to someone treating its program like a pit stop on the road to the next level. But that’s exactly what has happened with Henry, who might be the brashest one-and-done ever.
Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose – even Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo. It was never a secret that all of them were one-year players who would’ve gone straight to the pros if not for the rule that requires prospects to be a year removed from high school before entering the draft.
Still, even though they had no intention of becoming college mainstays, they did their best to endear themselves to fans and teammates. They cooed about how much they enjoyed campus life, they relished the chance to compete for conference and national titles and they teased fans into believing that maybe, just maybe, they’d return for their sophomore season when they had no intention of doing so. They played “the game” to perfection.
That has been Xavier Henry’s biggest mistake. The kid hasn’t even tried to pretend.
When Kansas’ veterans reported for summer school and conditioning drills last month, they were joined by incoming freshmen Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson, who literally arrived in Lawrence the day after his high school graduation ceremony.
Xavier and C.J. Henry, however, have chosen to conduct their offseason workouts in their native Oklahoma City.
In an article in Sunday’s Kansas City Star, Carl Henry said the reason his sons have yet to join their new teammates is because Xavier doesn’t like attending class.
Carl also revealed that, shortly after committing to Kansas, Xavier asked him to explore the possibility of playing in Europe. That option was eventually ruled out, but as recently as two weeks ago, Carl said Xavier told him he wanted to go to Kentucky to play for Calipari.
Carl Henry also opined that C.J. Henry, a former minor-league baseball standout who hasn’t played a basketball game in four years, was better than Kansas senior and national player of the year candidate Sherron Collins. He said he didn’t expect either of his sons to be in college for more than one year.
The article caused some Kansas fans to spend Sunday and Monday bashing the Henry family on Internet message boards. The situation got so bad that, on Tuesday morning, Carl Henry told 610 Sports that that scrutiny had caused his sons to reconsider their college options.
“The guy that wrote that story betrayed my whole family,” said Carl Henry, who never claimed he was misquoted or that there were factual errors in the article. “He kind of made us look bad, like my kids are prima donnas and all I do is talk.”
Later in the interview, Carl Henry said: “So guess what? The kid may have a change of mind. That’s what I told Coach Self. If the kid has a change of mind, so what? So be it.”
Self and assistant Danny Manning flew to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night to smooth things over with the Henry family. Shortly after the meeting, Xavier texted 610 Sports with the news that he planned to honor his commitment to Kansas.
Relieved as he may have been Tuesday night, Self has to realize that, in some form or fashion, the Henry storyline will hover over his program all season.
Kansas has a pair of potential first-team All-Americans in Collins and center Cole Aldrich, but its biggest strength is its team chemistry. How will Xavier Henry fit in with his new teammates? Will he whine and pout when he doesn’t get the ball? Or will he grit his teeth and work harder to get open?
How will Xavier handle Self’s infamous “boot camp” or being bossed around and barked at by Collins? Will he respect authority or walk out of practice?
What about Carl Henry, who has been the biggest problem of them all? Will he bash Self – or other players – in the media when C.J. is riding the bench? Or will he learn to shut his mouth and trust a coaching staff that has won five straight Big 12 titles while continuing to send players to the pros?
It has to be a scary situation for Kansas, which would’ve challenged for the national title even without Xavier Henry. Instead, Self gambled and added the piece that can either catapult the Jayhawks over the top or tug them toward the bottom.
We’ll know by April if the risk was worth it.