Henry-Kansas Saga Offers Proof NBA Rule Wrong for College Basketball
Kansas coach Bill Self has to be scratching his head now wondering, "What just happened here?" Self and his staff had successfully lured Xavier and C.J. Henry, the offspring of former 1980s KU basketball standouts Carl and Barbara Henry, into the Jayhawks' fold after breaking their previous commitment to Memphis in April.
All was right in the slimy world of big-time college recruiting.
That was until Sunday's Kansas City Star article that took a look at the Henry family and its diva ways. The story delved into why the Henry family had elected to have the boys remain in Oklahoma City to work with a personal trainer, instead of heading to campus for summer school and some ahead-of-time bonding with their coaches and teammates as thousands of incoming college recruits do.
But the story's sometimes critical tone didn't stop there, also revealing Carl had looked into sending Xavier, a smooth 6-foot-6 shooting guard who has NBA lottery pick written all over him, to Europe for a year just a month after his sons signed with KU. Carl came off as a sometimes out-of-control stage dad.
Carl was livid.
A couple days after the story ran, Carl hit the radio airwaves stating his disdain for the article and threatening that his sons might not end up in Lawrence after all. It turns out Xavier still wanted to play for John Calipari and might be headed to play for the former Memphis coach at Kentucky. What?
The passionate and vocal Jayhawks fan base let it be known their displeasure with their beloved basketball team being played for a fool. The idea that the fans who once cheered Carl had turned on him and his family infuriated the elder Henry more.
Not surprisingly within hours of Carl's radio rant, Self and several staff members boarded a private jet Tuesday night for Oklahoma City to smooth things over. Within hours Xavier was confirming his commitment to Kansas, and by Wednesday Carl was backing off his threat to pull his boys out.
But anyone who thinks we've heard the last of the Henry-KU drama isn't really seeing the problem and the root of it.
Clearly, the Henry boys and their dad have little interest in school. The NBA and it's minimum-age requirement is forcing a one-year marriage between the Henrys and KU we all know will end badly. C.J., a 23-year-old former Yankees prospect and a skilled 6-foot-3 point guard, could have given the NBA a shot but he's a bit rusty after a few years in the minors, and doesn't possess the can't-miss talent of his younger brother in basketball.
Some of this makes you wonder why Self would want this headache. The team he already has is good enough to make the Jayhawks the preseason No.1 and the odds-on favorites to win next season's Final Four. Now, finding a place and ample playing time for the Henry boys will be a must or risk a blowup and chemistry issues during the Jayhawks' title run.
Interestingly, FanHouse asked Self a couple weeks ago if he thought it was reasonable for major college coaches to shy away from recruiting the one-and-done divas, who often leave programs high and dry. Self responded honestly.
"In a word, no," he admitted.
We all know that no coach in his right mind would turn down a potential lottery pick and the potential he could bring to a program, even for one season.
"But there is no guarantee they would leave after one year," Self said. "There have been a lot of guys who have been projected as one-and-done who've been in school for three. There have been a lot of guys who have been projected to be in school for four who leave after one or two.
"Everybody matures and develops at different rates. I do believe it is an inexact science and I do believe that coaches still want to recruit the best guys."
Self was also asked about the viability of high school prospects avoiding college by going to Europe for a year as Brandon Jennings did last year. The unflappable coach responded perhaps knowing that Xavier and his family were considering an overseas venture.
"To me, Europe is an option. It's an option if you have no options," Self said. "I don't really see a lot of good things that come from as an 18-year-old who goes over there but had the opportunity to go to school, to be qualified and play at a place where he can be exposed and coached and all those things.
"There are too many risks with Europe. Who's going to be your coach, maturity level, are you able to handle it, breaking up families. I think that is a big risk."