Welcome Home To Kansas Basketball

The Henry family legacy will continue on in Lawrence. Phog.net's David Garfield on just what Barbara and Carl Henry have meant to Kansas Basketball.

It was a late afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse in 1983 or ‘84 when I saw Carl Henry create his magic.
    
The exact year escapes me, but it was either the last season of Ted Owens' KU coaching career (Henry's junior year at Kansas in ‘83) or coach Larry Brown's first year at Mount Oread of Henry's senior campaign.
    
Practice was over this day and all the players had left the court.
    
All but Henry.
    
As I watched from the balcony bleachers, assistant coach John Calipari repeatedly fed rapid fire passes to Henry, who shot jumpers around the perimeter. Shot after shot, swish after swish. Finally, after several minutes, Henry started breathing heavier and tugged at his shorts near the right baseline.
    
Calipari knew KU's star player was getting winded.
    
"Carl Henry doesn't get tired," Calipari barked.
    
So Henry kept on shooting. And he kept on swishing shots over and over again.
    
Twenty-five years later, Henry's sons, Xavier and C.J., will now be shooting jumpers at Allen Fieldhouse. Xavier, of course, signed a grant-in-aid with Kansas in April after he was let out of his letter of intent with Memphis when Calipari bolted the school to take the Kentucky job. And C.J. will transfer from Memphis where he was a redshirt freshman guard last season.

While there was some recent drama involving the players' commitment to Kansas, that should now be finally put to rest after Xavier texted a Kansas City radio station (610 Sports) during the late evening on June 30.

"I'm goin' to Kansas, and that's final," Xavier wrote.
    
I was thrilled with a sense of closure to this recruitment. Sure, I'm excited to land C.J. and Xavier, the 6-6 standout wing and Scout's No. 6 rated player in the Class of 2009, but also overjoyed to see Carl Henry being reunited with his alma mater.
    
Henry was one of my all-time favorite Jayhawks, an unsung star who led KU in scoring his junior (17.4 ppg) and senior seasons (16.8 ppg) after transferring from Oklahoma City. He was a 6-6 swingman who could score and rebound with the best, a do-it-all player who found seemingly every offensive rebound near the bucket.
    
For me, he was poetry in motion moving without the ball, a lost art in today's game. Henry was always running off screens to get open and virtually automatic within 15 to 17 feet. He wasn't a great long-range gunner and didn't have especially great leaping or athletic ability, but Henry was the consummate basketball player who was also graceful, a good ballhandler, solid defender, and a tireless and dedicated athlete.
    
He was a true warrior who simply got it done.
    
I often referred to Henry and his former teammate Kelly Knight as the heart and soul of those two Jayhawk teams in 1982-83 and 1983-84. But Henry shined brightest of all, the face of Kansas basketball just before Danny Manning walked on campus in the fall of 1984.
    
Henry was never better on March 10, 1984, scoring a career-high 30 points to lead KU to a 79-78 upset victory over Oklahoma in the Big Eight Tournament championship and earning the Jayhawks an NCAA berth for the first time in three years.

"That was a really good game," Henry told me in a Where Are They Now? interview for Jayhawk Insider in December of 1999. "That sticks out."

It was the start of a magical run for KU basketball. Except for the 1988-89 probation season when the Jayhawks were banned from postseason play, Kansas has been in the Big Dance ever since.
    
After beating OU that memorable March evening in ‘84, KU then defeated Alcorn State in the first round of the NCAA's before falling to Wake Forest, marking the end of Henry's two-year career. But he left a lasting mark, averaging 17.1 points for his career while shooting a sizzling 55 percent from the field.
    
Henry actually ranks No. 8 in career scoring average in KU history and No. 3 in career scoring average for two-year players behind Wilt Chamberlain and Wayne Hightower.

Pretty elite company, indeed.

He is also tied for No. 14 at KU in career field goal percentage. A second-team All-Big Eight selection in 1983 and first-team pick in 1984, I always thought Henry was one of the most underrated players in school history.

Besides the Oklahoma game, he said his favorite memory was his game-winning buzzer-beating turnaround baseline jumper over Eddie Elder and K-State in Manhattan two weeks earlier on Feb. 25, 1984.
    
"K-State Stunned By Final Basket," read the headline the following day in the Lawrence Journal-World.
    
That shot was a momentum changer and helped spark KU the rest of the season. After losing its next game to Colorado by two points, KU went on a five-game winning streak before its loss to Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament. Kansas finished 22-10 in Brown's first season in 1983-84, a dramatic turnaround from the 13-16 record the previous year under Owens.
    
Henry enjoyed playing for both Owens and Brown. He talked about the team's transformation under Brown.
    
"Coach Owens was the same as Larry Brown — a nice guy," Henry said. "But Larry Brown to me was more structured. It was getting everybody involved. That's how we were able to win more games. With coach Owens, a lot of new guys came in, a lot of young guys  — Kerry Boagni, Calvin Thompson, and Ron Kellogg. We were all trying to blend in. We tried to play as a team, but we were all new. I believe the difference was that coach Brown had us thinking more as a unit."
    
Brown had high praise for Henry.
    
"Carl Henry is a great player," Brown said in 1983. "He shoots well and has good court sense. The thing I like best about him though is that he is an unselfish player and is constantly looking for the open man."
    
Henry, who was a fourth-round draft pick by the Kansas City Kings (they moved to Sacramento), wound up having a successful professional career playing in the CBA, WBL, and overseas. He also achieved his NBA dream in 1985-86 when he made the Kings' roster.
    
Henry averaged 2.8 points in 28 games under head coach Phil Johnson. He scored a career-high 18 points against Boston, which won the NBA championship that season.
    
"I was playing against guys that I always saw play on TV. I got to meet Larry Bird and Magic Johnson," said Henry, adding he loved "scoring, playing defense, running up and down, basically enjoying yourself."

"It was everything I thought it would be, but I had a different kind of coach," Henry added of Johnson. "He didn't like rookies. You showed up and you play."
    
After his season with Sacramento, Henry next had a summer stint in the WBL with Fresno, where he was reunited with coach Owens. Henry enjoyed playing for Owens again, excelling in the 6-5-and-under league and leading his team to the playoffs.
    
"It kind of made it easier for me because I had already knew him and played under him," Henry said. "I knew what to expect. It was kind of a good deal for me."

Henry also played in the CBA with Rockford, Puerto Rico and Cincinnati, and had a five-year career in Europe. His career ended in 1993 when he tore his ACL. After rehabbing, Henry said his interest in playing had waned and he wasn't able to give 100 percent anymore.
    
"That was it for me."
    
So he returned to native Oklahoma City with his wife, Barbara Adkins, and raised C.J. and Xavier. Barbara actually played basketball at KU (1982-85) during Carl's time there, and was an influential reason (along with then-KU assistant JoJo White) why he transferred to Kansas from Oklahoma City after head coach Ken Trickey was fired after the 1981 season.
    
The entire Henry-Adkins family has great basketball bloodlines. Barbara and her younger sister, Vickie Adkins-Summers, were teammates at KU. Barbara was a hard working forward who averaged 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds during her career, while Vickie made her mark as one of the greatest players in school history.
    
The smooth shooting 6-1 forward/center was a three-time All-Big Eight selection, a 1985 Wade Trophy finalist, member of the Big 8 All-Decade team, and ranks No. 4  on the school's career scoring and rebounding charts and No. 1 in career field goal percentage.
    
Vickie and Barbara had always been inseparable until Vickie moved from Oklahoma City to Orlando in 1999. She calls teaming with Barbara at KU one of the fondest memories of her collegiate career.
    
"It was just me and Barbara," Vickie told me during an interview in 2002. "I'm just happy we were able to go to school together because I don't know how we would have been separate. We've never been separated until I moved to Florida."
    
That history of close family ties may help explain why Xavier originally signed with Memphis to be with his brother and why C.J. is leaving Memphis after one year and following Xavier to KU. They wanted to play for the same college, just like their parents were together at Kansas and mother and aunt were teammates in college.
    
"Me and my brother, there's no separating us," Xavier said. "I'd do anything for my brother."
    
With the Henrys coming to Kansas, I've often thought back to my interview with Carl in 1999. He talked softly yet cheerfully about his KU days, meeting former teammates and friends at the 100-year celebration reunion of Kansas basketball in 1998, and staying in touch with guys like former teammate Greg Dreiling. Henry was keeping busy back then with his real estate business, mentoring kids, attending church regularly, and spending much time following C.J.'s (then 13 years old) and Xavier's (then age 8) baseball, football and basketball activities.
    
Ten years later, Carl Henry's boys are all grown up and taking their games to Kansas. I couldn't be happier for the entire family. I was a KU student and member of the Bleacher Creatures Women's Basketball fan club during Barbara's and Vickie's Jayhawk career, including vice president during Vickie's senior season in 1985-86. I fondly remember talking to Barbara after a women's basketball fan club meeting in the fall of 1984 at JRP Hall, and am elated she'll be moving to Lawrence with her sons.

Barbara and Carl have to be very proud of their sons attending their alma mater. Carl, who helped lay the foundation for renewed greatness in Kansas basketball, told me in our interview in 1999 he was at peace with his decision to attend KU back in 1981.
    
"I had a good time there playing with different guys," Henry said. "I was glad I came there. I wouldn't change anything. I was glad that everything that happened to me there happened, because it happens for a reason."

Twenty-eight years later, he'll now watch his sons carry on the family legacy and shoot jumpers in Allen Fieldhouse, just as he and Barbara did decades ago.
    
When I'll watch C.J. and Xavier play, I'll probably drift back to that day in the early 1980s when Carl Henry was alone in an empty Allen Fieldhouse dripping with sweat and shooting baskets after a long practice during a drill with Calipari.
    
Those words from Calipari still echo in my mind: "Carl Henry doesn't get tired."
    
That's exactly right. He just got better.
    
Carl and Barbara: Welcome home to Kansas basketball.

You were a part of the Jayhawk family in the 1980s, you are a part of it now, and you'll be a part of it forever.

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