Kansas freshman Henry going to NBA

Wiping away tears, Kansas freshman Xavier Henry said Wednesday

he’s headed for the NBA draft because his coaches have helped him

get ready.

Averaging almost 14 points and five rebounds, the 6-foot-6 guard

was the second-leading scorer for a team that won a sixth straight

Big 12 championship and was ranked No. 1 most of the season, before

getting upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by

Northern Iowa.

“I think coach prepared me as well as he can,” said Henry,

flanked by his brother, C.J., and coach Bill Self. “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.”

Henry said he agonized over the decision even though it had been

widely assumed that he would be Kansas’ first one-and-done

player.

“People who really know me 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,” he said.

“The people outside looking in, they probably had no idea what

I was thinking.”

A smooth left-handed shooter who scored mostly from the outside,

Henry was a starter from the opening day on a team that finished

32-3. He joins two other starters from the Big 12 champions who

plan to enter the draft: senior guard Sherron Collins and junior

center Cole Aldrich, who announced last week that he would skip his

senior season.

Self termed it a “happy day” that his prize guard had an

opportunity to build a good life for himself.

“I’m not going to lose sleep over losing these three guys,” he

said. “I’m going to be happy for them.”

Henry’s father, mother and aunt were all scholarship basketball

players at Kansas, a point Self stressed when he began recruiting

the Oklahoma City native not long after he entered high school. The

brothers first decided to play for John Calipari at Memphis and

C.J. was already there last year when Calipari left for

Kentucky.

A short time later, the brothers opted for Kansas.

C.J., who spent several years in the New York Yankees

organization before giving up baseball, barely played this season.

He sat next to his brother for the announcement but declined to

talk about his future.

Xavier Henry teared up and dabbed at his eyes throughout the

news conference.

“My teammates and coaches really helped me grow up this year,”

he said. “They helped me grow up as a man. My family stuck by me

the whole time. I’m thankful for that. I think I’m more prepared

now than I would have been out of high school from a work ethic

standpoint and just from a mindset standpoint. It’s a great thing

to play here. It’s an unbelievable place to go to school and I

wouldn’t take it back for anything.”

Even though he was one of the most highly sought players ever to

sign with Kansas, Henry proved a good teammate who never tried to

hog the ball or the spotlight.

Speculation varies as to how high he might go in the draft.

“I’ve heard everything from eighth to 28th,” he said. “But as

long as I work hard, I’m going to get what I deserve. That’s what I

believe.”

Self said he was not sorry to recruit a player that the coach

had little chance of keeping more than one year.

“I think it’s definitely worth it to have a guy in your program

for just one year if he’s a guy with the character of Xavier,”

Self said.

“Regardless of what the perception was before he got to school

here, we talked a lot and 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. That was the

understanding. This is not a sad day for us because we anticipated

this could probably happen. We prepared for this.”