KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Wiping away tears, Kansas freshman Xavier Henry said Wednesday he's headed for the NBA draft because his coaches have helped him get ready.
Averaging almost 14 points and five rebounds, the 6-foot-6 guard was the second-leading scorer for a team that won a sixth straight Big 12 championship and was ranked No. 1 most of the season, before getting upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Northern Iowa.
"I think coach prepared me as well as he can," said Henry, flanked by his brother, C.J., and coach Bill Self. "He kept me confident throughout the whole season even when I went through slumps. He got my mindset ready to be able to play with anybody."
Henry said he agonized over the decision even though it had been widely assumed that he would be Kansas' first one-and-done player.
"People who really know me knew it would be a tough decision either way because they know I love people and once I start bonding with people that it's real hard for me to let go," he said.
"The people outside looking in, they probably had no idea what I was thinking."
A smooth left-handed shooter who scored mostly from the outside, Henry was a starter from the opening day on a team that finished 32-3. He joins two other starters from the Big 12 champions who plan to enter the draft: senior guard Sherron Collins and junior center Cole Aldrich, who announced last week that he would skip his senior season.
Self termed it a "happy day" that his prize guard had an opportunity to build a good life for himself.
"I'm not going to lose sleep over losing these three guys," he said. "I'm going to be happy for them."
Henry's father, mother and aunt were all scholarship basketball players at Kansas, a point Self stressed when he began recruiting the Oklahoma City native not long after he entered high school. The brothers first decided to play for John Calipari at Memphis and C.J. was already there last year when Calipari left for Kentucky.
A short time later, the brothers opted for Kansas.
C.J., who spent several years in the New York Yankees organization before giving up baseball, barely played this season. He sat next to his brother for the announcement but declined to talk about his future.
Xavier Henry teared up and dabbed at his eyes throughout the news conference.
"My teammates and coaches really helped me grow up this year," he said. "They helped me grow up as a man. My family stuck by me the whole time. I'm thankful for that. I think I'm more prepared now than I would have been out of high school from a work ethic standpoint and just from a mindset standpoint. It's a great thing to play here. It's an unbelievable place to go to school and I wouldn't take it back for anything."
Even though he was one of the most highly sought players ever to sign with Kansas, Henry proved a good teammate who never tried to hog the ball or the spotlight.
Speculation varies as to how high he might go in the draft.
"I've heard everything from eighth to 28th," he said. "But as long as I work hard, I'm going to get what I deserve. That's what I believe."
Self said he was not sorry to recruit a player that the coach had little chance of keeping more than one year.
"I think it's definitely worth it to have a guy in your program for just one year if he's a guy with the character of Xavier," Self said.
"Regardless of what the perception was before he got to school here, we talked a lot and he was going to come to school here to be at Kansas and make the most of his college experience, and whenever the time was right, the time would be right. That was the understanding. This is not a sad day for us because we anticipated this could probably happen. We prepared for this."