X Out

Xavier Henry (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas got official word on a second early departure on Wednesday. Freshman Xavier Henry will hire an agent and opted not to keep his place on Bill Self's roster next season, instead heading for the NBA.

The swing man they affectionately call "X" sat at a press conference after determining he was finally ready to make his decision public. Head coach Bill Self was to his left and his brother C.J. to his right as Xavier Henry offered his words of thanks and announced his intentions.

"I absolutely loved going to school this year. But I'm here to announce than I am putting my name into the 2010 NBA Draft. I am planning on hiring an agent, but right now we are in the interviewing process," Henry confirmed.
 
It wasn't a surprise. In fact, it would've been a shocker if he stayed.

From the day the McDonald's All-American first appeared in recruiting publications he was labeled as a likely "one-and-done". Though the NBA was likely never far from the family's radar, Xavier learned something along the way – college can be pretty darn fun. But like many before him who have sat at the podium while shedding tears, the dollars and security being a possible NBA lottery pick offers are just too tempting to turn down.

"It's tough. I didn't know I would love it here this much. All the people here made it a place for me to love," Xavier continued. "Just the relationships that you can build in one year and playing in this building, there's nothing like it. They gave me every opportunity and I loved playing here. I love what the coaches did for me and what my teammates did. The fans and everybody else who supported KU made it really worthwhile for me."

The decision will be criticized; it just comes with the territory. Xavier experienced the freshman full Monty with brilliance early on in the season, a midseason slump, and a late season resurgence. Henry was the focus of many when he was mired in that tough slump but he rebounded and never lost confidence. The smooth shooting lefty finished the season as KU's second-leading scorer (13.4 ppg) and the team's leader in steals. He was also a part of the Big 12 All-Rookie team.

"If you start out really strong, expectations rise. Then your performance dips in terms of expectations and then there are some struggles. Then we see a guy mature and fight his way out of it. I think that fans can always appreciate a guy who they know is trying so hard," said Self.

"I think coach prepared me as well as he can," Xavier stated. "He kept me confident throughout the whole season even though I went through slumps. He got my mindset ready to play with anybody and I think he did a great job doing that. I'm confident going in and I want to go in there and kill it."

"He is a Jayhawk and he came to Kansas for the right reasons," Self responded when asked about how Xavier will be remembered. "Of course it took him a while to get here, but he came here for the right reasons. He's going down as the second-leading scorer in the history of this school as a freshman. We've had some pretty good guys come through here and not come remotely close to touching what he's done from a scoring standpoint. I think he's 10 points or 13 points behind Danny (Manning) as the all-time freshman leading scorer. I think the positive I will take out of it is we've seen him mature before our eyes."
 
Self treated the situation the same way he treated Cole Aldrich's early departure. His staff was prepared for it, expected it, and still insists this is not a sad day for the program.

"I think it's definitely worth it to have a guy in your program for one year if he's got the character of Xavier," said Self. "Regardless of what the perception was when he got to school here, 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."

Tough to believe there isn't some level of frustration with the "one-and-done" concept when you pour as much as Self and Co. did in the Oklahoma City native's recruitment. After one of the weirdest, topsy turvy recruitments you wonder if these are exactly the type of situations that drive coaches into retirement. Dean Smith was certainly more then capable of coaching basketball at North Carolina but dealing with today's recruiting was what made him really turn in his clipboard.

Self is bothered by the one-and-done concept. But the 7th year KU head coach believes one could not be enough but for reasons that don't involve limited time on the court.

It's about what happens in our education system according to Self. Xavier is the exception to the rule being a 3.6 student who will have completed 36 hours this year. Self admits it's a alarming that a student-athlete could go to school only passing six hours the entire year.

Like Aldrich, Henry wishes to obtain his degree one day. But until players like Henry and Aldrich do achieve their educational goals it affects a program's graduation rate.

If you think Xavier's statement will steer Self away from recruiting possible one-and-done players. Think again.

"I think the best formula for success with the program is to have guys that are program guys. You can be an NBA guy and be a program guy," said Self who always seems to get players to buy into the team concept. "You want to recruit the best players and you also have to be happy with your guys if the feedback is that they've performed in such a way where the time (to go to the NBA) is right. We wish the decision was different, but if the decision is best for he and his family then it is right."

Henry, who claims he made the decision "recently", has always possessed an NBA body and he has certainly proven his ability on the court for a team that went 33-3 and competed at the highest level. Now it will be time to show his stuff in workouts and sit back and watch who else enters their names into this year's draft.

 
"I think from what we've heard, he's proven that he's put himself in a position to go high," said Self about X's predicted draft position. "But there are also other guys out there who can certainly move up the board and certainly move down. I do believe that the next month or six weeks will be pivotal in where he goes because there is a wide range and a lot of guys are declaring and workouts will be very important moving forward."
 
"I've heard anywhere from 8-20 or 8-16," Xavier told reporters. "It's all about putting in the work and as long as I work hard, I'm going to get what I deserve and that's what I believe. As long as I work my hardest, God-willing, that's where I'll go."

Henry has never been afraid to put in the work. His family has provided the means to success and X began his trek towards the NBA after reshaping his body between high school and college. There's no reason to believe he can't or won't continue to get better and be a success on the NBA level. With a possible NBA lockout looming the timing was probably right. But if you're a college basketball fan and the fan of a quality kid – you wish he could stay in the crimson and blue just a bit longer.

"I can't imagine there'd be one negative thought with X, other than they (the fans) feel like they've been cheated because they would love to see more. That would be from a strictly selfish standpoint as a fan," said Self.

But now the focus for fans shifts to how Self will begin to replace the points, leadership, and skill level of three starters – Sherron Collins, Aldrich, and Henry. But Kansas has been here before and because of the caliber of players it recruits it will be again.

"I don't think our expectations will change one bit because of the absence of three very good players," Self continued. "I really think that we've recruited well enough and will continue to recruit well enough, that even though it may take a little bit longer to get where we want to be, I do think this team will have a great opportunity to get there."
 
"I'm not going to lose sleep over losing these three guys. I'm going to go to bed happy for them because I really believe that we've got guys in our program, when their time comes, they'll be ready to step in and do the job."

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