The swing man they affectionately call "X" sat at a press conference after determining he was finally ready to make his decision public. Head coach Bill Self was to his left and his brother C.J. to his right as Xavier Henry offered his words of thanks and announced his intentions.
"I absolutely loved going to school this year. But I'm here to announce
than I am putting my name into the 2010 NBA Draft. I am planning on
hiring an agent, but right now we are in the interviewing process,"
It wasn't a surprise. In fact, it would've been a shocker if he stayed.
From the day the McDonald's All-American first appeared in recruiting
publications he was labeled as a likely "one-and-done". Though the NBA
was likely never far from the family's radar, Xavier learned something
along the way – college can be pretty darn fun. But like many before
him who have sat at the podium while shedding tears, the dollars and
security being a possible NBA lottery pick offers are just too tempting
to turn down.
"It's tough. I didn't know I would love it here this much. All the
people here made it a place for me to love," Xavier continued. "Just
the relationships that you can build in one year and playing in this
building, there's nothing like it. They gave me every opportunity and I
loved playing here. I love what the coaches did for me and what my
teammates did. The fans and everybody else who supported KU made it
really worthwhile for me."
The decision will be criticized; it just comes with the territory.
Xavier experienced the freshman full Monty with brilliance early on in
the season, a midseason slump, and a late season resurgence. Henry was
the focus of many when he was mired in that tough slump but he
rebounded and never lost confidence. The smooth shooting lefty finished
the season as KU's second-leading scorer (13.4 ppg) and the team's
leader in steals. He was also a part of the Big 12 All-Rookie team.
"If you start out really strong, expectations rise. Then your
performance dips in terms of expectations and then there are some
struggles. Then we see a guy mature and fight his way out of it. I
think that fans can always appreciate a guy who they know is trying so
hard," said Self.
"I think coach prepared me as well as he can," Xavier stated. "He kept
me confident throughout the whole season even though I went through
slumps. He got my mindset ready to play with anybody and I think he did
a great job doing that. I'm confident going in and I want to go in
there and kill it."
"He is a Jayhawk and he came to Kansas for the right reasons," Self
responded when asked about how Xavier will be remembered. "Of course it
took him a while to get here, but he came here for the right reasons.
He's going down as the second-leading scorer in the history of this
school as a freshman. We've had some pretty good guys come through here
and not come remotely close to touching what he's done from a scoring
standpoint. I think he's 10 points or 13 points behind Danny (Manning)
as the all-time freshman leading scorer. I think the positive I will
take out of it is we've seen him mature before our eyes."
Self treated the situation the same way he treated Cole Aldrich's early
departure. His staff was prepared for it, expected it, and still
insists this is not a sad day for the program.
"I think it's definitely worth it to have a guy in your program for one
year if he's got the character of Xavier," said Self. "Regardless of
what the perception was when he got to school here, he was going to
come to school here to be at Kansas and make the most of his college
experience and whenever the time was right, the time would be right."
Tough to believe there isn't some level of frustration with the
"one-and-done" concept when you pour as much as Self and Co. did in the
Oklahoma City native's recruitment. After one of the weirdest, topsy
turvy recruitments you wonder if these are exactly the type of
situations that drive coaches into retirement. Dean Smith was certainly
more then capable of coaching basketball at North Carolina but dealing
with today's recruiting was what made him really turn in his clipboard.
Self is bothered by the one-and-done concept. But the 7th year KU head
coach believes one could not be enough but for reasons that don't
involve limited time on the court.
It's about what happens in our education system according to Self.
Xavier is the exception to the rule being a 3.6 student who will have
completed 36 hours this year. Self admits it's a alarming that a
student-athlete could go to school only passing six hours the entire
Like Aldrich, Henry wishes to obtain his degree one day. But until
players like Henry and Aldrich do achieve their educational goals it
affects a program's graduation rate.
If you think Xavier's statement will steer Self away from recruiting
possible one-and-done players. Think again.
"I think the best formula for success with the program is to have guys
that are program guys. You can be an NBA guy and be a program guy,"
said Self who always seems to get players to buy into the team concept.
"You want to recruit the best players and you also have to be happy
with your guys if the feedback is that they've performed in such a way
where the time (to go to the NBA) is right. We wish the decision was
different, but if the decision is best for he and his family then it is
Henry, who claims he made the decision "recently", has always possessed
an NBA body and he has certainly proven his ability on the court for a
team that went 33-3 and competed at the highest level. Now it will be
time to show his stuff in workouts and sit back and watch who else
enters their names into this year's draft.
"I think from what we've heard, he's proven that he's put himself in a
position to go high," said Self about X's predicted draft position.
"But there are also other guys out there who can certainly move up the
board and certainly move down. I do believe that the next month or six
weeks will be pivotal in where he goes because there is a wide range
and a lot of guys are declaring and workouts will be very important
"I've heard anywhere from 8-20 or 8-16," Xavier told reporters. "It's
all about putting in the work and as long as I work hard, I'm going to
get what I deserve and that's what I believe. As long as I work my
hardest, God-willing, that's where I'll go."
Henry has never been afraid to put in the work. His family has provided
the means to success and X began his trek towards the NBA after
reshaping his body between high school and college. There's no reason
to believe he can't or won't continue to get better and be a success on
the NBA level. With a possible NBA lockout looming the timing was
probably right. But if you're a college basketball fan and the fan of a
quality kid – you wish he could stay in the crimson and blue just a bit
"I can't imagine there'd be one negative thought with X, other than
they (the fans) feel like they've been cheated because they would love
to see more. That would be from a strictly selfish standpoint as a
fan," said Self.
But now the focus for fans shifts to how Self will begin to replace the
points, leadership, and skill level of three starters – Sherron Collins, Aldrich, and Henry. But Kansas has been here before and
because of the caliber of players it recruits it will be again.
"I don't think our expectations will change one bit because of the
absence of three very good players," Self continued. "I really think
that we've recruited well enough and will continue to recruit well
enough, that even though it may take a little bit longer to get where
we want to be, I do think this team will have a great opportunity to
"I'm not going to lose sleep over losing these three guys. I'm going to
go to bed happy for them because I really believe that we've got guys
in our program, when their time comes, they'll be ready to step in and
do the job."
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