Henry's Long-Awaited Debut

C.J. Henry (Steve Puppe photo)

It was a long time coming with many pit stops along the way. But on Thursday night the "other" Henry made his first appearance as a Jayhawk.

C.J. Henry originally announced he would walk on at KU back in May of 2005 then opted to trade crimson and blue for Yankee pinstripes. Three years later, after opting for hoops over baseball, Henry ended up in Memphis blue. Then finally in April of 2009 came back to Lawrence to pursue a college basketball career under the tutelage of head coach Bill Self.

So it has been a roundabout road to this point and to further delay his debut Henry has been suffering from a nagging knee injury since boot camp in September. It was annoying enough and cumbersome enough to keep him out of games and most practices since the official opening date of October 16th.

"He's only been out there, if we had 25 practices he's maybe been out there seven times or something and probably hasn't completed but two or three and that was early on. So he's probably 80-85 percent," Self admitted.

But on Thursday on a knee Henry and the KU staff claim was 80 percent, C.J. played nine minutes during a 94-44 rout of Central Arkansas and put up eight points. It was the first on court competitive action for Henry since a state semifinal game back in 2005.

"I thought he moved pretty good he said his knee felt good out there," Self said.

"It was exciting. Just exciting to get to know I was going to get to play tonight," said a giddy Henry. That's really the only word I have to describe it, exciting. I wasn't really nervous, maybe a little anxious, but I was just excited."

It was an important game for Henry to gain a little confidence and develop a rhythm and Self saw this game as a good opportunity to start working C.J. in and learning how he will fit into an already crowded Kansas rotation.

"It's going to take time. I think I'll definitely be in the rotation – I just need to work hard every day, and get my reps in, that is something since I haven't played in four years; I understand that. I've got to get used to playing with everybody. Because that's the main thing that this team needs is chemistry, and to win, you need to have chemistry," an astute Henry concluded.

C.J. appeared to shake off any rust. He looked smooth with the handle and certainly showed he can shoot it going 3-4 from the floor and 2-3 from three-point land for eight points in just nine minutes of play. Henry came off the bench with guns blazing and nailed his first attempt as a Jayhawk which just happened to come from behind the arc and was worth three points.

"The first shot I took, I didn't want it to be a three because I had been sitting there for 18 minutes and I was just cold but that's the play he called so I had to shoot it," said Henry who was all smiles during the postgame activity. "It felt good coming off but the first one I made, it felt good just to get that one out of the way. I wasn't really too worried about scoring points I was just trying to see how my knee felt and then just help my teammates."

"C.J. had a chance to play and that's the first time he's been in the game since the state championship in high school and he's 23 years old so that's a good thing to happen. It was good to see him get a couple down. He's a good shooter."

It remains to be seen how and how much Henry will factor into the rotation but one thing is for sure, the elder and less publicized Henry got off to a good start in his Phog Allen Fieldhouse debut. C.J. made an impression on the fans and James Naismith court continues to make an impression on the 23-year old freshman.

"My dad played here – I thought about that when they were playing the video before the game. I was thinking that I get to actually play where my dad played," said C.J. referring to his father Carl. "With all the greats that have played here, it was exciting.

Before the game, that's what I was thinking about. When they were showing the video, I was thinking ‘Wow, my dad played here, my brother played here, my mom played here, my aunt played here.' It was crazy that we all played here. It's indescribable for your whole family to be able to do one thing."

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