NEW YORK -- Before they matriculate to their respective college programs, top recruits Xavier Henry (uncommitted), Alex Oriakhi (UConn), Ryan Kelly (Duke) and John Henson (UNC) sat down to discuss their high school and recruiting experiences. The quartet will play in the Jordan Brand All-American game on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Who is the best recruiter you came across?
Xavier Henry: Memphis' Josh Pastner never left me alone for a second. He's always awake. He was on top of it. He knows what your mom and brother are doing. He knows all the numbers in his head. No phone. All by memory. That was impressive. He'd call me at 7 a.m. sharp on Saturdays. I never picked up. I'd wake up and say "Oh my god" then just let voicemail answer. The messages were always like, "Memphis Tigers! Memphis Tigers!" He's always positive. He'd say, "Call me, X! Call me, X! Call me, X!" like 12 times before letting go. "You know the number. Call me!"
John Henson:Steve Robinson from UNC was down to earth. Smooth, calm guy. I just liked the way he talks and carries himself. He's a cool dude.
Alex Oriakhi: Coach Jim Calhoun produces pros. Hilton Armstrong, Hasheem Thabeet. He knows how to produce big men.
Ryan Kelly:Coach K. He's a Hall of Fame coach. He's very honest and up front. To play under him is not something many people can do. He's Coach K.
What is the funniest recruiting moment you remember?
Henson: I did have one school, which shall remain nameless, that sent 250 letters in one day. One stack in my mailbox and two more at the doorstep. I didn't read them. I kept them next to my couch. When I was bored watching TV I'd open it up, take a look at the inspirational quotes and then go back to the regular programming.
Kelly: I've had coaches send my little sister mail.
Oriakhi: The recruits sit right behind the bench at UConn games. [Calhoun] is just yelling at dudes, lighting them up. I'm laughing, but next year I'll be on the other side.
What would you change about the recruiting process?
Henry: I'd rather have texting. It's better than calling and talking. Before you sign, there's a whole bunch of coaches calling.
Henson: No, no, no. Think about how many texts you would have gotten after John Calipari left [Memphis]. Your phone would have vibrated all the way across the table.
Henry: Still better than talking on the phone.
Henson: I think reporters need to use other people as sources. After certain games they should just have joint reports. Too many people asking the same thing.
Kelly: I controlled my recruitment pretty much. Basically I started my own list. I'd make it on academics and basketball.
Oriakhi: I committed so early to avoid all the craziness.
Who was the best recruiter on an in-home visit?
Kelly: I had Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Wake Forest. Maybe even more. All pretty similar. Ate dinner then showed me film of players they feel I'd be similar to. I play the double bass in the school orchestra, and one coach got from my teacher a copy of the music that we were playing in a concert so they played it as the background music.
Henson: I'm gonna tell all the Carolina kids that you play bass. I bet it was Coach K who did the music.
Kelly: That's OK. Everyone knows it back home. I'm not saying the coach.
Henson: Chapel Hill's really gonna know now. Was it Wake Forest who played the music?
Kelly: I'm not saying.
Henson: Actually, the music sounds like a Georgetown joint.
What did you think of John Calipari leaving Memphis for Kentucky?
Henry: I was just shocked that he left Memphis. That's all I can say on that. (Editor's note: Henry had signed a National letter of intent with Memphis that a clause giving him an out if Calipari left and has now reopened his recruitment.)
Henson: I just felt really sorry for Xavier.
Henry: No, you didn't. You just kept coming up to me at [the] McDonald's [All-American game] saying, "You've got no coach. What are you going to do now?"
What was your reaction to Brandon Jennings going to Europe last year? Did you consider it?
Henry: I was surprised he was really going overseas. I heard stuff about his test and why he had to go overseas.
Henson: I wasn't surprised because I heard he was talking about it for a while. I thought it was kinda crazy. He didn't pass the SAT, so he couldn't play college, right? Well, I guess that's the only option unless you go JUCO. He did what he had to do.
Kelly: Good for him. He's pretty confident he would be an NBA player. He felt going overseas would be best way to go there. I don't know if it would be an option I'd look at. Personally I'd want to get somewhat of an education.
Henson: True that. That's a very Duke-like answer.
What did you think of the Guitar Hero commercial that features Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Coach K and Bob Knight in pink shirts and boxers?
Henson: I literally jumped up off the couch when I saw the coaches dressed like that. Bob Knight on the drums. That was crazy.
How big has high school basketball become?
Kelly: It has become a business almost. You have TV which is the biggest mainstream thing. There are Web sites with people paying money to see if Xavier is No. 1.
Henry: A lot of teams are sponsored by shoe companies with national tournaments all over. You can be on ESPN. It's getting pretty big pretty quick. I knew it was big when my team from Oklahoma City got on TV.
Henson: I could remember when McDonald's game was the only game on TV. Now you can see top-ranked players two or three times in one season.
How young were you when you started in AAU? What were the positives of your experience? What would you change?
Henry: Third grade. Best part was whooping up on people because we were good. We had Daniel Orton (Kentucky signee). Kyle Hardick. Terrence Boyd. Nick Johnson. And then kids who played well. I'd change how many games we played in a day. We played at most three of four. My dad was the head coach for two years with Athletes First.
Henson: I started about fourth grade. Traveling and meet new people is the best part. Vegas is the favorite place we visited. I'd want less games per day if I could change rules. There are a lot of injuries toward the end of summer. From Vegas in July I had to go to L.A. We played 11 games in like eight days. I was on the Franchize All Stars. We were a start-up team that disbanded when I left. The Franchize started last year. Adidas sent us a bunch of stuff to help the team out, and they didn't send nothing this year.
Kelly: Last summer I came from Argentina and then went straight to Vegas. I think it will be tough to change because colleges want to see as many kids as possible in a short time.
Oriakhi: I started in the fifth grade. Traveling with friends and being the best AAU team in the country. We were like top five in the country (smiling).
Henson: I know some unknown teams that no one knows about because they are just broke.
How many pairs of sneakers do you have in your house right now?
Henry: Six. Enough to wear a pair everyday. Blessed to have some shoes.
Henson: About 13.
Kelly: I give away shoes.
Henry: What size are you?
Henry: Me too. What are you giving away this week?
Best shooter in this class?
Unanimous: Vanderbilt signee John Jenkins.
Oriakhi: I'm not going to say anyone else. It's me.
Henry: [Georgia Tech-bound All-America] Derrick Favors.
Henson: Favors is a Dwight Howard clone.
Unanimous: Kansas State signee Wally Judge.
Unanimous: Louisville signee Peyton Siva.
Best player that you've competed against?
Henry: Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose in AAU. Derrick only had 12. I guarded him. I had nine points.
Henson: I haven't really been playing the best players. I dunno. There's no one I've really played before who I was like, "Oh my god!"
Kelly: We played John Wall twice a year.
Oriakhi: Michael Beasley at Notre Dame Prep