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Friday, April 24, 2009

CBS Sports - Top prospect Henry picks Kansas over Calipari

Top prospect Henry picks Kansas over Calipari
April 23, 2009 staff and wire reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- John Calipari's move to Kentucky has cost him one of his prized recruits.

Oklahoma City high school star Xavier Henry announced Thursday that he would not follow Calipari after he left Memphis, and committed instead to play at Kansas.

'I've always dreamed of going to Kansas,' Xavier Henry says Thursday. (AP)
"I've always loved Kansas, I've always watched them and it's always been a dream school for me," said Henry, who is considered the third-rated prospect in the country by both and ESPNU.

Gary Parrish of first reported Henry's decision on Wednesday.

In reversing course, Henry fell in line with family tradition. His parents, Carl and Barbara, both played basketball for the Jayhawks and his brother, C.J., originally committed to Kansas before he decided to pursue baseball after being a first-round pick by the New York Yankees.

Big brother ended up playing a role in Xavier's decision, too. With his education being paid for by the Yankees, C.J. walked on at Memphis and redshirted last season. Xavier was going to follow him until Calipari replaced the fired Billy Gillispie at Kentucky.

The Henrys believe that C.J. will be allowed to transfer to Kansas -- which beat Memphis in the 2008 national championship game -- and not sit out another season because he is not on scholarship.

Kansas coach Bill Self, admittedly "crushed" when the Henrys first committed to Memphis, said Xavier was the most highly regarded prospect he has signed.

"Some people may have him the first, the third, the sixth, the eighth," Self said in a teleconference. "We've recruited some other great players, but I don't think we ever recruited a prospect who was rated so high across the board for his entire high school career.

"There are few players in high school that possess the body, the strength, the explosion and the outside perimeter ability that Xavier has. You've got to defend him wherever he is on the floor.

Henry said he has "always dreamed of going to Kansas."

"But I took a step back for my brother at Memphis, and now that he's cleared to play anywhere, I'll get my chance to play at Kansas," he said.

Xavier Henry, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, averaged 28.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range last season in leading Putnam City High School to the state title in the class that features Oklahoma's largest schools.

Putnam City also won the Class 6A title in Henry's freshman year, just after C.J. had moved on.

"Me and my brother, there's no separating us. I'd do anything for my brother," Xavier Henry said. "That's why I was going to go to college with him even if I wasn't into it as much as Kansas. I just wanted to be with my brother, and I want to spend as much time as I can with him."

He chose not to follow in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, another top five prospect who followed Calipari from Memphis to Kentucky.

"It was tempting just because of (Calipari)," Xavier Henry said. "Me and my brother, I don't think we ever really followed Kentucky. We knew about the tradition, but we never actually followed them. Kentucky wasn't that much of a pull, but coach Cal was a big pull for us."

Once the combination of his brother, Calipari and a stocked roster at Memphis disintegrated, the attraction of following in his parents' footsteps was automatic for Xavier -- and C.J. was on board, too.

"I'm not really following him," C.J. Henry told reporters by phone. "We just wanted to play together."

Xavier Henry adds to a freshman class that already was ranked among the best in the country. With top players Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich also putting off a jump to the NBA to keep the Jayhawks' starting five in tact from a run to the NCAA tournament round of 16, Kansas becomes a front-runner for the national championship next season.

"I don't know how good we're going to be, but I think we're going to be pretty good," Xavier Henry said. "If everything falls in to place -- no injuries and stuff -- we have a chance to win it all."

Barbara Henry said she was confident C.J. would be allowed to play next season, and she's tickled that her sons will be together at her alma mater.

"I think it's great. I know Xavier's heart was with Kansas as well when he chose Memphis," she said. "It was just that ... he wanted the opportunity to play with his brother for once in his life. He's always loved Kansas, so to me it's no surprise."

One decision that will have to wait is whether Xavier Henry's first season at Kansas also will be his last before heading to the NBA.

"If it happens, it happens, but I just want to concentrate on winning the national championship next year," Xavier Henry said. "There's nothing more I like than winning, and winning the right way. I want to try my hardest to win and help my team win."

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