Integrity at issue, not ability

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Once a college basketball player signs a letter of intent, he can’t sign another, even if he is released by a school from the obligations of that letter. At that point, all a school can bank on is a recruit’s word.

If the Henrys are men of their word they will come to Kansas. If they aren’t, who wants them anyway? Well, everyone wants them because they can play ball, especially the younger Henry brother, Xavier, who indicated late Tuesday he’s headed to Kansas. Let’s say the Henrys decide this morning that they want to go to Kentucky. Then they change their mind in the afternoon. You don’t think KU would welcome them back? It all conveniently could be blamed on the media and spun in such a way as to make the brothers look as if they were born to play basketball at Kansas the way mom and dad did.

For all the absurd attacks on the integrity of a Kansas City sportswriter, this boils down to the integrity of the Henry men. Again, if they are men of their word, they will come to Kansas. If they aren’t, they’ll go to Kentucky, which, sadly, will be Kentucky’s gain and KU’s loss. Why? Because Xavier can really play ball, and at least according to his father, Carl Henry, so can C.J.

Carl’s protestations about the way he and his family were portrayed in a Kansas City Star article smacked of scapegoating. It sounded an awful lot like he was trying to blame someone for his sons contemplating backing out on their word. Don’t fall for it. Don’t blame the messenger. He’s not the one who said of Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor, “They’re good kids, man. But they’re not better than C.J.” Carl said that.

The writer wasn’t the one who said, “Everybody’s gotta be on board. The coach has got to be on board.” Carl said it. The writer’s not the one who decided the Henry brothers would stay in Oklahoma City and work out with their personal trainer, instead of coming to Lawrence to work out and bond with teammates.

Consider the timing of the Kentucky ponderings. Carl revealed in a radio interview Tuesday that Xavier had been talking about wanting to play at Kentucky with his pal Daniel Orton. This preceded the newspaper article in question.

The story didn’t reflect well on the Henrys, but the writer doesn’t work for the Henrys, and he doesn’t work for the Kansas basketball program. He works for his newspaper and is charged with telling the story, warts and all.

If the family announces the brothers will continue their basketball careers in Lexington, Ky., nobody there will care how bizarre the recruitment has been. They’ll just rejoice, and in Lawrence the general sentiment will be, “Good riddance, we didn’t want them anyway.” If they announce they are going to stay with KU, once the season starts with Kansas ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, hard feelings generated by the brothers’ decision to bypass summer workouts and the flirtation with Kentucky long since will have faded. They will have kept their word, remember?

Wherever they end up, that school will be ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls. The coach who wins the third recruiting battle for them will have no trouble whatsoever spinning them as great additions in every way to fan bases grateful to have them. Such is life in big-time college basketball.