Kansas' Xavier Henry Tearfully Declares for NBA Draft
Henry is forgoing the remaining three years of his college career and heading for the NBA. That he wouldn't stick around long was expected since the McDonald's and Parade All-American announced he was going to be a Jayhawk.
What maybe wasn't expected was the emotion Henry displayed Wednesday in announcing his decision.
"It's tough," said Henry as he wiped away tears with tissue. "I didn't know I would love it here this much at KU, coming to play and all the people here. They really made it a place for me to love because of how big they are on basketball and just the relationships you can build in just one year that you have to give up. Playing in this building, there is nothing like it. They gave me every opportunity and I love playing here.
"I think for the people who really know me, they knew it would be a tough decision either way because they know I love people. And once I start bonding with people, that it's real hard for me to let go. But for the people on the outside looking in, they probably had no idea what I was thinking."
Kansas coach Bill Self, who has been outspoken about the one-and-done rule made possible by the NBA mandate that players must be one year removed from high school before entering its league, admitted Wednesday he wasn't at all surprised by Henry's decision. In fact, a few weeks ago, Self told reporters that Henry was ready for the NBA shortly after the Jayhawks were upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Northern Iowa.
"Regardless of the perception, he was going to come to Kansas and make the most out of his college experience and whenever the time was right, the time would be right. That was the understanding," said Self, who loses his top three scorers from this past season. Center Cole Aldrich announced last week that he also will skip his senior season to declare for the NBA draft, and Sherron Collins was a senior this season.
"This is not a sad day for us because we anticipated this could probably happen, so we prepared for this. But I think it's a bad rule because if a young man is talented enough to go, he should be able to go out of high school. I don't think it's bad in [Henry's] case because here is a 3.6 student who is going to pass 36 hours this year."
But many thought there could be a slight chance the 6-foot-6 shooting guard might return for his sophomore season after a somewhat up-and-down season. Henry, at times, didn't seem focused offensively, and he struggled defensively.
Henry, however, finished the year as the Jayhawks second-leading scorer, averaging 13.4 points. He was instrumental at times in the Jayhawks 33-3 record, which also included Big 12 regular-season and conference tournament titles and the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Henry, who was flanked by brother/teammate C.J. Henry and Self, said he was confident this was the right time to move on.
"I think Coach prepared me as well as he can," said Henry, who said he has not hired an agent but is in the process of interviewing potential candidates. "He kept me confident throughout the whole season, even when I went through slumps. He got my mindset ready to be able to play with anybody.
"I think he did a great job doing that and I'm confident going in. I want to go in there and I want to kill it."
Henry said the information he has received has him going anywhere from No. 8 in June's NBA draft to No. 20. Most pre-draft boards have him listed around No. 10 to the Los Angeles Clippers, a spot which would land him with friend and fellow Oklahoma City native Blake Griffin.
"It's all about putting in the work," he said. "As long as I work hard, I am going to get what I deserve. That's what I believe. As long as I work my hardest, God willing, that's where I will go."
Self, on behalf of Henry and his family, has talked to several people in NBA offices and said the conversations have been positive. But he also said Henry will certainly have to prove himself during individual workouts with respective NBA teams.
"What we've heard is he's put himself in position to go high like that," Self said. "But there are also other guys out there that can certainly move up the board and certainly guys can move down.
"I do believe the next month to six weeks will be pivotal in where he goes because there is a wide range there. A lot of guys are declaring and workouts will be very important moving forward."