On Thursday morning, the 6-foot-6 McDonald's All-American walked into the gymnasium at Putnam City (Okla.) High School, sat down next to his mom, Barbara, and delivered the only statement he had prepared:
"Next year, I'll be taking my game to Kansas," Xavier Henry said. "And
that's all I wanted to say."
In an age where the nation's top high school basketball recruits have
become bona fide celebrities, the Henry family – including Xavier,
Barbara, older brother C.J., and father Carl – thought that they were
done with this process.
C.J., a former Kansas commitment himself, was in the midst of his
freshman year at the University of Memphis when Xavier decided that the
chance to play with him was too good to pass up, formally committing to
the Tigers on November 18.
When Memphis head coach John Calipari left the Tigers to helm the
University of Kentucky on March 31, however, Xavier and CJ were both
forced to re-examine their situation.
"It's the recruiting process all over again," Barbara said. "But we
were fortunate in the fact that he had narrowed it down before, and
wasn't going to be open to everybody. He already had a couple of
schools in mind that he would really love to play for, and so it made
it a little easier. But the time frame was so short it was stressful."
One of the constants throughout her youngest son's recruitment, she
noted, had been a bona-fide love for the University of Kansas.
"He's always loved Kansas, that's one thing," she said. "And the pull
to Memphis and that decision was his brother. He wanted the opportunity
to play at Kansas, and things happen for a reason."
After a family discussion earlier this week, Xavier knew he was ready
to make his decision, informing Jayhawks head coach Bill Self on
"He asked me ‘Are you positive, are you sure you're coming?' because he
didn't want me to be joking with him or change my mind or anything," he
said, of Self's reaction to the news. "So he just wanted to make sure
that I was being serious about coming."
Though he wouldn't speak for his brother, it is assumed that CJ will
follow him to KU's campus this summer. Recently, CJ opted to transfer
from the University of Memphis, and Xavier said that his understanding
was that CJ would be able to play immediately at whatever school he
Though Kansas fans may not be as familiar with his brother's game,
Xavier said that they were in for a pleasant surprise.
"CJ is an explosive scorer just like me," he said. "He's a little
shorter, a little stronger, and just as quick. He's a real good player."
"He wanted CJ to be able to announce on his own," Barbara later added,
of Xavier's reluctance to announce that his brother would come with him
to KU. "They're really close as brothers. He was trying to get him on
the phone so he could hear and everything."
As to what's next, Xavier couldn't say. For now, for a kid who has
spent weeks jetting around the country to various all-star games and
camps, he's looking forward to finishing his high school career in
novel fashion – not as a superstar athlete, but as a normal teenager.
With the return of Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, however, Henry
knows expectations will be flying high in Lawrence next year. And
honestly, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Just be ready for next year," Henry said, as a message to Jayhawk
fans. "We're going to come up there, have a lot of fun, and hopefully
win it all."
"Just be ready for next year"
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