Clearly, I/we were wrong. Xavier Henry didn't lack passion. Xavier Henry didn't have his head in the NBA. Xavier Henry wasn't a team chemistry problem. Some, and I stress some Kansas fans felt this might be the case with Xavier Henry. Count myself among those that questioned whether or not it was all worth it in the end. Flat out, I was wrong.
Xavier Henry announced on Wednesday at a press conference that he would be entering the 2010 NBA draft after just one year at the University of Kansas. As Kansas fans we hardly knew Xavier the person, but now he's gone. Amazingly in a short press conference in front of his family, teammates and the media, Xavier Henry finally let us in.
To be clear I was never anti-X. I just had questions in the back of my mind as to whether or not it was a good fit. Turns out the giant smile on the court through good and bad wasn't indifference. It wasn't for lack of passion. The giant grin from ear to ear was just a method for a young man to hide his true emotions for the University, the Jayhawk program, his coaches and his teammates.
The dynamic of a one and done puts a strange twist on an already bizarre dynamic that is the fan relationship with a player. The reality is that as fans we feel like we know the players. When a guy like Sherron Collins stays for the full four years it's like they are part of our family. At the same time a player can learn to love a fanbase as a group, as a community but never the way that we believe it to be.
With that in mind, it's no surprise that the fans didn't understand Xavier and his now apparent passion for Kansas. We had 36 games to get to know the freshman that was supposed to deliver a championship. The ultimate goal fell a few steps short and the tendency is to wonder why.
Xavier goes out as one of the top freshman ever to play at Kansas. Perhaps he didn't play to the unfair level of the expectations placed on him, but he certainly played VERY well. Some would argue he should go, others would argue he should stay. Before today, I would have guessed that decision would define how many Kansas fans viewed Xavier. After today, perhaps he's found a little niche in the hearts of Jayhawk fans regardless of how short his stint with the program.
Xavier will never be Sherron Collins, Mario Chalmers or a Jacque Vaughn, but he doesn't have to. Those players gave three and four years to the Kansas fans and the program. Leaving after one year doesn't mean that Xavier can't hold a place and today he earned that from me.
Perhaps it's trivial and over simplistic to say a few tears changed things that much, but they did. Before the perception might have been that of indifference during his time at Kansas. After, it was clear he cared more than we ever knew. Before the press conference he seemed like an individual. After, a humble teammate and a player very much thankful for the opportunity to be a part of one of the best programs in the country.
Xavier Henry may have had his head in the NBA from the get go, but that doesn't mean he didn't pour his heart into Kansas. Sure it was a stepping stone, but it's also clear that he cared about those around him and the program during his time in a Jayhawks uniform.
Hat tip to the first one and done in Kansas Jayhawk history. Xavier may well impact the program more in succeeding at the next level than he has during his time at Kansas, but regardless it's safe to say that Coach Self made the right move with Xavier.
Winning cures all and changes the perception of a player forever. After today I just have to remind myself that winning isn't the only thing that matters.