Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Xavier Henry Coming To Kansas

As if Kansas wasn't already deep enough, after Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich both confirmed that they're coming back for another season, they now land Xavier Henry. For those that don't know who Henry is, he is a very athletic 6'6" shooting guard (rated the #2 SG in the nation by, and the 8th rated overall player by who had originally been the centerpiece of John Calipari's ridiculous recruiting class at Memphis (not only was it rated #1 overall, but some were calling it the best recruiting class for any school in several years). With Calipari gone to Kentucky, that recruiting class was blown up. It was believed all along that Kansas was Henry's top choice, since his original recruitment choice had been seen as a battle between Kansas and Memphis.

Of course, with top recruits these days you can't just recruit the kid, you've got to recruit their whole family. Some kids bring assistant coaches with them, others have family members suddenly get athletic trainer positions at their new school. For Xavier Henry, it's his brother who gets a spot on the basketball team also. C.J. Henry was already at Memphis, sitting out this past season with an injury. He will now head to Kansas with Xavier. But forget C.J., because he'll be lucky if he sees the floor outside of garbage time next season. The key here is Xavier Henry, and how much better he makes a team that was going to be the #1 team in the preseason polls even before Henry decided to show up.

The question is, how big of a roll with Henry play next year? The starting lineup of Cole Aldrich at center, the Morris brothers at power forward, and Sherron Collins, Brady Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor at guard will all be back. Obviously Aldrich and one of the Morris brothers will start every game down low, and Collins will be the starting point guard. But it's not obvious that Henry will start over either Taylor or Morningstar. If I had to guess I'd say that Henry will start over Morningstar. I can't fathom that Henry would have picked Kansas unless Bill Self had assured him of a spot in the starting lineup. That means that Morningstar will come off the bench, along with whichever Morris brother doesn't start (most likely Markieff), Tyrel Reed, Mario Little, Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson. That's an absurd 11 man rotation. You've got to wonder whether Johnson or Robinson will redshirt because of a lack of playing time... although generally recruits of that caliber won't redshirt because they figure they're unlikely to stay a full four years anyway.

So is this Kansas team going to be as dominant of a #1 rated team as North Carolina was this past year? I'm actually going to say that they're not, for two reasons. For one, they just haven't won a lot of important games. I know that sounds like a silly thing to say about a team that is just one year removed from a National Title, but almost all of that team is gone. Only Sherron Collins played even ten minutes a game on that team. Much of the North Carolina team had played together for four years, and most of the rest had played together for three, and they had all had extensive Tournament and Final Four experience. The other reason I give North Carolina the edge is that they had a true game changer in Ty Lawson. Kansas won't have anybody that good next year. But the bigger reason is experience.

Still, Kansas should be the unanimous #1 team to begin next season. We'll see how they handle it.

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