Wall gets all the pub, but Kansas frosh Henry is just as impressive
Newsflash: There's a freshman guard out there who is putting up huge numbers for a top-five team. He has a great chance to lead his school, which is steeped in basketball tradition, to a national championship before becoming a lottery pick next spring.
And his name isn't
True college hoops fans know all about
Henry and Wall are great players with differing styles. If Wall is a souped-up Ferrari who dashes from baseline to baseline in a blur, Henry is the sleek Cadillac with jazz blaring from the speakers, elegantly and efficiently slashing from the wing. He is a big, powerful, athletic lefty, and unlike Wall he has the luxury of playing with experienced teammates like senior point guard
Henry is the first to recognize that Wall has earned every bit of his publicity, but he will not concede that Wall is the better player. Henry also confesses that Wall's hot start has provided him with extra incentive. "It does kind of motivate me that he plays like that and gets all this attention, so if I play just as well then I should get the same," Henry told me in a telephone interview. "Just don't sleep on me. That's all I've got to say."
Nobody would call Henry a sleeper; Rivals.com ranked him No. 8 in the Class of 2009 and Scout.com had him 7th. But his seamless transition to the college game has surprised even his coach,
Henry has what is often referred to as the "full package." He's a mega talent who's also a top-flight student. (He graduated high school with a 3.5 GPA and will finish his first semester with all A's and B's.) He's also a charming, unfailingly polite young man. Even so, Henry caused some consternation in Lawrence last summer when, instead of enrolling in summer school and bonding with his future teammates, he stayed home in Oklahoma City and worked out privately with his older brother,
Xavier told me he stayed home in Oklahoma City largely because he had to undergo massive dental work. His orthodontist removed his braces, gave him four root canals and pulled four wisdom teeth. Even so, Self thought Henry should have been in Lawrence and was concerned with how his absence would be received by Kansas's returning players. "He did have some mouth issues, yet with that being said he could have been here, and I told him I was disappointed he wasn't," Self said. "I talked to our guys about it, and they all said it's all right, he seems like a great kid. They also said they couldn't wait for him to get here so they could guard him in pickup games."
If Henry proved to be unguardable, at least he has also been likable -- so much so that Self has had to caution him against being too deferential to his older teammates. Furthermore, Henry is that rare player whose book smarts translate to a high basketball I.Q. His high field goal percentages are as much a reflection of intelligent shot selection as they are his shooting ability. "He has been like a sponge," Self said. "You don't have to repeat things with him all the time. Once he gets it, it's done, and for the most part he gets it pretty quick."
Henry attributes his early success to his ability to process the reams of information being thrown at him. "I can memorize things real quickly," he said. "From a mental standpoint, nothing really comes hard for me."
As for his doppelgänger in Lexington, Henry told me that while he and Wall became friendly while playing on the AAU and high school all-star circuit, they haven't spoken in several months. (Here's a scary thought: For a time, it looked like they might play together in college. Henry signed a letter of intent to play at Memphis, but the school released him when
Since their teams are not scheduled to play each other this season, that meeting would probably have to take place at the Final Four in Indianapolis. When I pointed that out to Henry, he let out a chuckle. "That would be nice," he said. "That would be a real good game."
• Georgetown sophomore center
• I know a lot of Purdue fans are counting down the days until sophomore point guard
• I spoke with
• When teams are down by three or four points with under 30 seconds to play, I think they go for the three-pointer way too often. Even when there are only 10 to 15 seconds left, I think it's better to drive to the rim for the quick two points (and quickly foul on the ensuing possession) because defenses will usually let you do that, as they don't want to give up the three. It's just a smarter way to stretch the game.
• Wall may hold the keys to Kentucky's offense, but
• The thing I love about
• When is the last time a player from a major conference finished the season as a single-digit free throw shooter? Through 10 games, Michigan State freshman forward
• I've said it before and I'll say it lots more: No guard in the country is better at getting to the foul line than Villanova's
• Having said that (thank you,
• Memphis guard
• I hope you all are not sleeping on
• It's odd that Butler sophomore center
• One more tidbit on Kansas:
• Xavier guard
• John Wall's success masks the fact that overall, this is a pretty mediocre freshman class. You get past Wall, Henry, Stephenson,
• The problem the teams in the Pac-10 are going to have is that they won't be able to improve their RPI rankings after league play begins because of their poor showings in nonconference games. The over/under for NCAA bids from this league is two.
• I'm a little perplexed that Michigan senior forward
1. Kansas (1)
The highly subjective nature of poll rankings means that you have to be inconsistent almost by definition. I try to give heavy consideration to head-to-head results, especially on neutral courts. That's why I have kept Minnesota ahead of Butler, who the Gophers beat by nine points in Anaheim. Yet, I have left Michigan State one spot ahead of Florida, even though the Gators beat the Spartans in Atlantic City. Why? Probably because I was at the game, saw Michigan State commit 22 turnovers and only lose by three, and I still feel they are the better team. That's my prerogative as a voter. If you don't like it, you'll need to get your own ballot.
I do not like to punish teams too badly for road losses to quality opponents. That's why I only dropped Villanova four spots after losing at Temple, and it's why Cincinnati moved up to No. 24 (by attrition) despite falling in double overtime at Xavier. The exception here is Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes lost a true road game at Butler, but without
Incidentally, not only did Temple beat Villanova, but the Owls only lost to Georgetown by one point, and they also handed a pretty good Virginia Tech team its only loss. Hence their introduction to my ballot at No. 19. In hindsight, I punished Georgetown too much for only beating Temple by one point. After a terrific week in which they throttled Butler and Washington, the Hoyas are back to their rightful status.
As for my also-rans, I am not quite ready to bite on Texas Tech, despite its undefeated record. The Red Raiders have played a very weak schedule outside its win at home over a Washington team which I am also not ranking. (That's zero Pac-10 teams on my ballot if you're scoring at home.) I know 8-2 Clemson is getting some love from my fellow voters, but the Tigers' best win of the season is a one-point victory over Butler, and I cannot shake the image of this team blowing a 23-point lead to Illinois at home.