I Hope Bill Self Is Right...
I've had reservations about Xavier Henry coming to KU since the day John Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky and the Henry Bros. recruiting opened back up. And after reading a piece in the KC Star on Sunday about the Henry Bros. reason for working out in OKC rather than Lawrence with the rest of what is expected to be a Preseason #1 Team, I have one thought that keeps bouncing around in my head - I hope Bill Self is right.
With Lance Stephenson in the bag - and yes, I know of everything that's been written about him - KU had a kid with incredible game, lots to prove both on and off the court, was developing a friendship with Sherron Collins, and most importantly to me, he wanted to be in Lawrence.
Instead, Bill Self and KU are taking on two guys who have absolutely no desire to be in Lawrence. I understand that neither Henry Brother wants to take summer classes, and Xavier doesn’t want to play college ball and would rather be playing in Europe where at least he could make some money, but it was not knowing where he would play in Europe that turned out to be the deciding factor for Xavier and Carl. The article made it clear that the Henry Bros. will be in Lawrence until the moment the season ends, and then it’s off to the NBA.
Don’t be surprised if the HB’s don’t bother to even unpack the boxes – then again, they may bring just enough with them to get through the basketball season.
“Let’s see,” Xavier says, “I’ve got boxers, socks, shorts, practice jerseys, my bling, some sweat pants, some hoodies, few pairs of kicks and my trophy from the LeBron Camp… Can’t forget my retainer… Whoops, almost forgot the keys to my Hummer, wait, these are CJ’s Range Rover keys, oh well, we might as well ride up their together, it’s not like we’re gonna be there long.”
I don’t have a problem with the Henrys being one-and-done, that’s their prerogative and it’s a byproduct of the NBA rule, although CJ isn’t held to that rule given his age. But Bill Self has signed on to it, and his judgment when recruiting has been stellar in six years at Kansas. But I get the feeling when reading about the Henrys is they feel they’re bigger than the Kansas program, and Kansas should feel privileged just getting the HBs. That’s what bothers me.
Carl has this Earl Woods-like obsession with making his sons professionals now, and I don’t have a problem with that either, because it turned out well for Tiger. But even Tiger went to Stanford and bonded with teammates. Problem with the HBs, is that Carl is treating them like professionals, but they aren’t yet. Sure, CJ was a professional baseball player, but he’s not anymore. He’s a 23-year-old who hasn’t played a competitive basketball game in four years, yet Carl makes us believe that CJ is going to run circles around guys like Sherron and Tyshawn as though they’re Putnam JV guys.
Then there’s the matter of the “coach being on board” with the Henrys’ plan. What exactly does that mean? Since when does a coach have to be on board at a program like Kansas? I wonder if Lance Stephenson Sr., who has taken a brunt of criticism for his handling of his son’s recruitment, made a similar pitch to Bill Self or Danny Manning, who was in NYC quite frequently watching Lance leading up to what was supposed to be Lance’s decision to attend Kansas the morning of the Mickey D’s All-American Game.
I can understand if a “coach needs to be on board” at a program like Kansas State or even Memphis, but Kansas? Is that how bad Self wanted these two?
So here’s the deal – while Tyshawn is representing his country playing ball overseas, Sherron is back in Lawrence with his teammates, including sure-fire lottery pick Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris continues to get better and drops hints this summer that he could be a double-double threat at the 3 or 4 next season, Jeff Withey continues to pack on pounds and get better, and frosh Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson are working with their teammates to get better and prepare for the season – the HBs are off doing their own thing, “training like professionals.”
Thing is, what made that 2007-2008 team so special, sure, there were professionals on that team, but they put all that off and sacrificed for the sake of the team. They worked together as Kansas Jayhawks and when everybody wrote them off after the Davidson win, that they were the weakest team in the Final Four, they bonded together and played two incredible games of basketball that only a collection of guys all buying in to the same goal could accomplish.
There’s too much “I” and “me” coming from the HBs right now that gives me reason to believe they’re willing to sacrifice for the “team.” And I’m sure there are KU fans that will bellow, “Self knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to get the Henry Bros. to buy in,” or “Sherron and Cole are the leaders and they’ll take control.”
You can only lead those who are willing to be led – and the HBs weren’t even willing to work out with their future teammates over the summer. Maybe this is much ado about nothing, but egos can be a very dangerous thing – and all it takes is two professional egos to ruin what could be another magical season.
Is there any guarantee Lance wouldn't have been a problem? Nope. But I will maintain until the end - he wanted to be a Jayhawk. I sure hope Bill Self knows what he’s doing.