Xavier Henry Inks with Kansas Men's Basketball

April 23, 2009

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas men’s basketball head coach Bill Self announced Thursday that standout guard Xavier Henry has signed a grant-in aid agreement to play at Kansas for the 2009-10 season.

A McDonald’s and Parade All-American this last season, Henry led Putnam City High School, in Oklahoma City, to the 6A state championship this past season averaging 28.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.1 assists per game. Additionally, Henry shot 55 percent from the field, including 43 percent from three-point range. He also guided the Pirates to the state title his freshman year.

“It’s a huge get,” Self said. “Not only did we get one of the best prospects in the country, a player that certainly fills a need on the perimeter for us, but we also recruited his family for several years and to see everything come full circle and come back to KU, I think it’s a huge get for the University of Kansas.”

The state of Oklahoma player of the year by many outlets, Henry is ranked No. 3 by ESPNU 100, No. 6 by Scout.com and No. 8 by Rivals.com scouting services for the class of 2009.

“Thanks for everybody coming out here today and seeing me make my decision,” Xavier said at a press conference at his high school gymnasium Thursday morning. “Next year, I’m going to be taking my game to Kansas.”

Henry originally signed National Letter of Intent (NLI) with Memphis last fall but was released from his NLI when coach John Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky.

“With me, he (Coach Self) said they (the Jayhawks) would be preseason No. 1 for sure,” Xavier Henry said. “I just want to play on the best team next year and have a chance to win the national championship.”

Henry is the son of former basketball-playing Jayhawks Carl and Barbara (Adkins) Henry. Carl Henry played for KU coach Larry Brown and led Kansas in scoring in 1983 at 17.4 points per game earning All-Big Eight Conference Second Team honors. His senior season he was named All-Big Eight First Team averaging a team-high 16.8 ppg. Barbara Henry was a four-year letterwinner for KU head coach Marian Washington from 1982-85. She averaged eight points and five rebounds for her career, including 11.9 ppg her sophomore year and 10.7 ppg as a junior. She led Kansas in rebounding in 1983 with 6.8 rebounds per contest.

Additionally, Henry’s aunt, Vickie Adkins, was a four-year letterwinner under Washington from 1983-86 and was a three-time All-Big Eight Conference First Team selection (1984-86). Vickie Adkins ranks fourth on the KU all-time scoring list with 1,786 career points.

Henry joins Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson who signed national letters of intent with Kansas in the fall. Center Jeff Withey, a 6-10 transfer from Arizona who will be eligible following the fall semester, will also be a newcomer in 2009-10.

Johnson is a 6-2 guard from Las Vegas, Nev., who guided Cheyenne High School to a 21-3 record this past season averaging 15.9 points and 3.9 assists. He was rated the No. 24 recruit in Rivals.com’s final ratings, No. 28 by ESPNU 100 and No. 29 by Scout.com.

Robinson is a 6-8 forward from Washington, D.C., who played for Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.J., this past season where the Bobcats went 18-6. He averaged 16 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots per game in 2008-09 for Brewster and was rated the No. 24 by Scout.com, No. 31 by Rivals.com and No. 40 by ESPNU 100.

Henry becomes the 30th all-time McDonald’s All-American to don a Kansas uniform. He will be the third McDonald’s All-American on the 2009-10 Kansas roster, joining senior guard Sherron Collins and junior center Cole Aldrich.

“I think Xavier has a chance to come in and impact this team in a big way as one of our big perimeter players,” Self said. “Xavier’s big. He’s a legit 6-6, he has a big body, and certainly can defend the three and post. He can do some different things that we weren’t able to do much of, or any of last year.”

Kansas Men’s Basketball 2009-10 Signees

Xavier Henry – G, 6-6, 210, Oklahoma City, Okla., Putnam City HS

Elijah Johnson – G, 6-2, 183, Las Vegas, Nev., Cheyenne HS

Thomas Robinson – F, 6-8, 225, Washington, D.C., Brewster (N.J.) Academy

Jeff Withey – C, 6-10, 220, San Diego, Calif., Horizon HS

Bill Self Quotes from the April 23 teleconference

On how big the signing of Xavier Henry is for the program:

“It’s a huge get. Not only did we get one of the best prospects in the country, a player that certainly fills a need on the perimeter for us, but we also recruited his family for several years and to see everything come full circle and come back to KU, I think it’s a huge get for the University of Kansas.”

One where he sees Henry fitting in on the team next season:

“I think Xavier has a chance to come in and impact this team in a big way as one of our big perimeter players. Last year, we did not play with a big perimeter player very much of the game. We did from time to time in various situations. Xavier’s big. He’s a legit 6-6, he has a big body, and certainly can defend the three and post. He can do some different things that we weren’t able to do much of, or any of last year.”

On his reaction when Henry told him he was coming to KU:

“I would say a little bit relief. But primarily, I thought that we got better immediately when I got word from the family. He’s obviously one of the premier prospects in the country, and some people throughout the season had him rated as the No. 1 prospect, the No. 1 high school senior. We were crushed when originally the family picked Memphis, but we also knew that there were reasons why. Since those circumstances have changed, I just felt fortunate that we were able to get back in.”

On where Henry ranks out of high school with some of Kansas’ greatest recruits:

“I think X is the highest rated player we’ve ever signed. I don’t think we’ve ever signed a player that held the national ranking that Xavier has his entire career. Some people may have him the first, the third, the sixth, the eighth or whatever. He’s a very highly-recruited guy. We’ve recruited some other great players, but I don’t think we’ve ever recruited a prospect that was rated so high across the board for his entire high school career. I would say he ranks right up there, potentially, with the very best.”

On how he sees all the guys coming together next year and playing as a team:

“That won’t be a problem, because our guys like to win. You look at our national championship team, I believe we had seven players that scored at least 20, maybe 25 points, in a college game. That was no problem with those kids, they all shared it. Our leading scorer averaged 13. I don’t think that won’t be the case this year. With Sherron (Collins), Cole (Aldrich) and of course with Xavier’s scoring potential, I think we’re going to have our leading scorer average quite a bit more than 13. But still, balance, I think, wins. We’re going to have to defend all five spots the majority of the time our players are out there, and of course we’ve become much harder to guard. I’m not concerned yet at all about having enough balls. I think we have one ball and I think we have some unselfish guys, and I know they like to win. I think we will be much harder to guard this year than we were last season.”

On who Henry reminds him of:

“Few players in high school possess the body, the strength and explosion and the outside perimeter shooting ability that Xavier has. You have to defend him wherever he is on the floor.”

On how fitting it is to have Henry finally sign with Kansas:

“It’s very fitting for us as a University and our alums. We should be excited about the Henry family coming here. Extenuating circumstances were involved in his first recruitment, and I was really hoping that we were able to recruit the family here the first time, but circumstances were not best for the family to come here the first time. Now, having it come full circle, the family gets to be together and be in a place where obviously mother and father both graduated from and had great careers here at a very great University. I think it’s going to mean so much to that family to witness what’s getting ready to happen here in the near future.”

On how good the Big 12 will be this upcoming season:

“There have been some schools in our league that have had fabulous recruiting years. Fabulous. Oklahoma has done a fabulous job, Texas had a great, great year, and other schools have as well. I think K-State is on paper, based on who they signed. Wally Judge is a fabulous guy and they have some other guys. And now you have to throw us in the mix with the guys that we have coming in and basically not losing key players off of this year’s team, but we were still able to add something. I really think our league got better than the last year, and last year was very strong. This league isn’t going anywhere. You’re going to talk about the top three conferences in America year in and year out, and I really believe the Big 12 will be a part of that equation almost every year.”

On if it will be fun having multiple threats on offense:

“I think it will be. Before last year’s team, we were able to have balance and have guys that could score from all five spots. Our young kids played great this year, and they’re going to be better next year, at least from an experience and strength standpoint. I do think it will be fun. We had some needs to address even though the team was pretty good last year and won the league. We still had some needs to address, and through our recruitment I think we were able to address those needs.”

On if he thinks Henry is a one-and-done player:

“I don’t know. I think he certainly has the potential to be that, and I won’t stand in his way from being that. Based on my talks with him, his whole deal is ‘I want to go to college, I want to be a college kid, I want to help you win, help the University win’, and when the time’s right, we’ll know it’s right. But I don’t think his focus will be that at all. When you put too much focus on that type of thing, you really lose sight of the big picture. The big picture is if we do well, then those things take care of themselves. I know he’s very unselfish and he’ll be thinking along those lines.”

On if Sherron and Cole coming back influenced Henry’s decision:

“I don’t know. I don’t think it hurt, by any means. Guys want to go where there are good players and you have a chance to win. If anything, it helped. This family was raised on KU by mother and father and of course their aunt Vickie (Adkins) also was a tremendous player here. They’ve been raised on KU their entire lives, so I think it still could have worked out for us. But certainly having those guys back added to the thought of having the chance to play on what has the potential to be a pretty good team.”

On if the 2009-10 team has the potential to be the best he’s ever had:

“The 2007-08 National Championship team had three guys on it that are rookies and starting on their respective NBA teams this year and a fourth playing in the league playing significant minutes in the playoffs, and a fifth that would be in the league except he just opted to go overseas to make more money. That’s quite a bit of guys. And then you add Cole and Sherron to that mix, that was a pretty talented team. I don’t know if this team has the same number of individuals that can do what those guys have done post-college, I think that still remains to be seen, but I do think we have numbers. I think we have depth, and I think we have some guys that are pretty good at what they do. It should be a fun group to coach. To make a prediction, I really believe that team two years ago was one of the best all-around teams that we’ve seen in recent years. There have been several of them, but that was certainly one of them. For next year’s team to break into that group, they have a lot of hard work ahead of them. A lot.”

On the overall significance of the Henry signing:

“It’s a big deal for Kansas basketball. When you really break it down, Kansas has recruited a lot of people over time. Coach (Roy) Williams, Coach (Larry) Brown and Coach (Ted) Owens, those guys have gotten some good players to come here over time. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a chance to recruit somebody, a family of this talent, that both the parents are alums. I think that makes it even more special for me, personally.”