Chris Henry aims to make most of last chance

PULLMAN -- When Dick Bennett landed his inaugural recruiting class at WSU, he didn't hesitate when asked if any of the youngsters could become immediate starters. He uttered one name first. And it wasn't Kyle Weaver's. Or Robbie Cowgill's, Daven Harmeling's or Josh Akognon's. Or even Derrick Low's. Now, with one season left in a career marred by injury, Chris Henry aims to make up for lost time.

Ankle injuries have torpedoed Henry's college career. As a freshman, before he even had a chance to put on a Cougar uniform, he was on the shelf and ended up playing in just 14 games, averaging a little more than seven minutes per outing. During this last magical season he suffered two ankle dislocations and played in just six games before surgery sidelined him for the year.

"Extremely frustrating," says the 6-8, 256-pounder from Santa Ana matter-of-factly about his injuries. "It's taken a toll on me."

In three seasons on the Palouse, Henry has played in a little more than half of the Cougars' 90 games, averaging 2.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 11 minutes.

Despite the challenges, he says, "I still have motivation to play."

And the outlook is improving. He recently participated at full strength in four—on-four off-season workouts.

"It was good to see him back out there," WSU assistant coach Ben Johnson told CF.C this week. "I was happy to see him going 100 percent.

"You have to take baby steps when coming back from injury," he added. "Getting Chris healthy is the first step. Now he has to get back into condition and stay healthy."

Johnson said the Cougars' exhibition tour in New Zealand and Australia in June should help kick-start Henry's comeback.

WATCHING THE unforgettable past season from the bench was hard, says Henry, but he tried to contribute in little ways.

Indeed, says Johnson, Henry was the consummate teammate, and especially encouraging to fellow big men Ivory Clark and Aron Baynes.

As for next season, neither Johnson nor Henry is talking specifics about what role the big man might play. All the discussion, says Henry, is focused on health.

"If he stays healthy, we'll find a way to use him and he'll give us a boost," says Johnson. "He may not have the athleticism of Ivory Clark, but he frees guys up for better shots with his screening."

While Clark will be gone, the 2007-08 Cougars won't be short of post players, with Cowgill, Baynes, Harmeling and Caleb Forrest all back, plus 6-10 freshman Fabian Boeke, a 20-year-old from Germany, set to join the fold.

Of that group, though, only Baynes -– like Henry -– is a banger in the paint.

"Chris is a smart, tough, physical player with a good feel for the game," says Johnson. "He's also a very cerebral player in his screening and screening angles. He gets his teammates open."

Asked about his goals for next season, Henry is succinct: "To show the fans and the coaches that I'm a Cougar and that I should be on the floor."

NOTABLE NOTES:
• The Cougars take off for their Down Under exhibition on June 2 and return June 16. Fans interested in traveling with the team should call 509-335-0240. The cost of the 15-day, 12-night tour is $4,750 per person and includes flights, accommodations, breakfast each day and some sightseeing.

• WSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk's "basketball excellence fund" has raised about $600,000 in the last two months. The aim of the fund is to improve WSU's basketball facilities and equipment, and keep staff compensation packages competitive. To contribute or learn more, contact Kori Kaufman at 206 219-2425 or kori@wsu.edu.

• No less than four major sports media outlets are forecasting WSU to be a top ten team next season. Analysts from ESPN, CBSsportsline, Sports Illustrated and Scout.com are all expecting big things from the Cougars.

• Cougar forward Nikola Koprivica, who tore an ACL early in the Pac-10 season, is now out of his knee brace and doing stand-still shooting from 3 and 4 feet, assistant coach Ben Johnson said. "He's making good progress and should be jogging in a few weeks," the coach said. The hope is that Koprivica is 100 percent and ready to go full steam when practices begin Oct. 15.

Ty Abbott, the prep sharpshooter from Arizona who had narrowed his college choices to ASU, UW and WSU, has opted to go with the Devils. "I called all the coaches a couple of hours ago," he told Devils Digest Tuesday evening. "It just came down to playing here in front of my mom and friends…the trip to the Washington schools made the decision a lot tougher. All schools were even for me, but in the end the ability to play at home made me want to play at ASU." Abbott tripped to Pullman a week ago.

Cougfan Top Stories