The 2006 Class had Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.
The 2007 Class had Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley.
The 2008 Class, as of right now, has nobody who is going to show up and knock your socks off. Some future stars in the pros, sure, and maybe an All-American here-or-there, but there doesn't appear to be a freshman, much less a duo, to change the landscape of college basketball, at least in their freshman season.
The 2009 Class has John Wall, Lance Stephenson and Xavier Henry. Plus a handful of others. But of all of those future-stars, I like Xavier Henry the most. And while Bill Self will never be able to cite a lack of talent as a reason for failure to win another Championship, he is far too good of a recruiter for that to happen, the recruitment of Xavier Henry, or X, feels so much different. We have been in on him for what seems like since the day Bill Self was hired (in all actuality his sophomore season in High School, unofficially) and his recruitment has been extremely public. He has unveiled numerous different list of "finalists", most recently narrowing his list of colleges down to only Kansas and Memphis, only to later renege his cut of certain schools, resupplying the list with numerous potential destinations. But one name has always been there, associated with almost every single recruiting move made by Xavier; Kansas. And so, all along, it has generally been assumed that he was an ever-so-slight lean to KU, and eventually, after all of the circus and hullabaloo of the recruitment process had run its course, for him to publicly declare his intention to be a Jayhawk. But it has yet to happen, and with the recent news of him expanding his list from simply Kansas and Memphis to include Texas and UCLA his assumed final destination of Kansas has become nebulous.
But we have to be his final destination. It just has to work out. Quite possibly the most important event in the next 12 months of Kansas Basketball will be the press conference Xavier Henry throws, because it is more like a party anyways, stating his choice of college. Because if it isn't Kansas, it could bring some nasty ramifications along with it.
Reasons why after the jump...
Reason #1 :: The Recruitment was Public
While Xavier Henry's recruitment hasn't been as nonsensical as Willie Warren's, or as E!-arific as O.J. Mayo's (you wanna take the periods outta your name too, O.J.?) it still has been on the radar screen of nearly every recruiting expert, and every hardcore Kansas fan, for multiple years. And while he isn't a household name by a longshot, he is certainly a well-known commodity among most, if not all, hardcore circles.
He has yet to actually play college basketball, or even pick where he is going to be playing, and yet he has his own fan site. Mario Chalmers, he of the "The Shot" that won us a National Championship, does not have a fan site. But Xavier Henry does. And that, right there, shows how popular this preps hoopster from Oklahoma City is. And despite him never coming out and ever stating that Kansas was his favorite, his supposed destination has been Lawrence for awhile now. And while it wouldn't be terribly embarrassing, afterall Oklahoma City isn't exactly KU-exclusive territory, it still would seem that we let one go that should have been ours. Plus, his parents both played basketball at KU. So, he has a strong family connection to a tradition-rich school that is coming off a National Championship season that has been recruiting him hard for years and he will get the opportunity to start right away. Still not being able to pullin that kid after all of that wouldn't be a positive for the program.
Reason #2 :: Lack of Star Power on Projected 2009-10 Roster
Looking at our roster for this upcoming season, there is only one proven 'star' on the team: Sherron Collins. Sure, the Morris twins and Tyshawn Taylor and Cole Aldrich and maybe even Travis Releford have the potential to destroy Big 12 opposition in the future, but only one player has displayed actual evidence of contributing on a consistent basis in Big 12 play. SC. And Sherron, while not exactly your prototypical NBA PG, has a decent shot of jumping school early, after having spent 4 months as the primary weapon on the defending National Champions, and heading to the League. Bye-bye to Sherron, and you can't tell me that anyone that would be left on our roster will make a bigger impact on the 2009-10 season than Xavier Henry. Without Xavier, even if we replace him with a prospect rated in the teens nationwide, and we become much less of a National Championship contender.
Which leads me to my next point...
Reason #3 :: Xavier is Necessary to Win a National Title
Even though we took the whole 'team' concept to a whole nother level this season en route to a NC, we still had Brandon Rush. And while he didn't always seem to show up, he always did, providing the dependable backbone that we sorely needed after he fully recovered from his torn ACL. Xavier Henry, in my eyes, will fill a nearly identical role to Rush (he is a little more of a slasher, but can knock it down as well) in our offense; the consistent guy who we look to whenever we need a bucket (not at the end of a game, obviously, but when the opponent is on a 11-2 run, Brandon almost always stopped it).
I absolutely love Self's share-the-ball philosophy, it is a blast to watch and a refreshing break from the me-first attitude taken by far-too-numerous college athletes, but in that system it is necessary that one is a no-matter-who-you-put-on-me-I-am-going-to-score-right-now kinda guys, and I don't see a player like that on our current roster now that Brandon has gone off to the League.
So, maybe I'm overreacting. I probably am, actually. We are in on Lance Stephenson, who supposedly can fill a similar role and is a nearly identical player, and countless other top prospects who could, potentially, fill the Brandon Rush-role on our offense.
But I am going to leave you with a quote from SLAM Magazine, who is covering the LeBron Camp over in Akron, Ohio, which both college and high school basketball players are attending, including ex-Jayhawk Darnell Jackson:
*Xavier Henry, 6-6 senior G/F, Oklahoma City, OK: A kid you’ll be hearing much more about in our magazine very soon. Henry is still playing on a bum ankle, and you can tell the way he limps around pre and postgame. On the court, the injury’s not obvious, but you can tell he’s not quite himself. Still, his size and athleticism—he’s probably the only non-big man in the HS ranks who could physically fit right in with the college campers—makes him tough to match. Offensively, he does pretty much whatever he wants. Great kid, too.
Again, maybe I'm overrating all of this. Afterall, it is just one HS kid and we aren't the Powercats, we don't live-and-die with one player, like ever*. But still, the more and more I read about the kid and watch the kid on film, I want him more. He just has future star written all over him, and every indication gives he is an awesome person as well. What's not to like?
Well, nothing, really, as long as he picks Kansas.
* Obviously, Danny Manning is an exception. I'm talking the Bill Self-Jayhawks. Just making that clear...
Post Script: A must-read on Henry can be found here at RiseMag. Gives you an indication of how good a person he is, and how awesome of a player he is.