The Bleacher Report had the pleasure of chatting with 6'11 2009 Kansas State Signee Jordan Henriquez, who is a bit of a mystery to many Big 12 and Wildcat fans since he went off to prep school last fall.
Jordan's is a unique story thats pretty hard not to relate to, a story of a kid from a working class tough neighborhood in New York having to work hard towards a goal in the face of some serious obstacles.
When he arrives in Manhattan this summer (and yes thats a 100% probability as you will read below) Kansas State fans will see a kid they might not recognize immediately and he is sure to look even more different as time goes on.
But this Q&A is about a bit more than just his skills on the basketball court and I was surprised as anyone at how frank and honest he was about the recruiting process, his family, and what this year at Winchendon Prep has meant to him.
So lets start off with the easy stuff, whose getting the most play on your iPOD right now?
"Ha Lil Wayne, I've been a fan of his music for years since Hotboys"
Last time you checked in at 6'11 215 pounds going into your year at Winchendon, whats your size like now and how tall you these days?
"6'11 225 and I am looking to add more."
You mentioned your Mom wanting you to go to a private school and play basketball when you were 14, when did you really start to figure out you were going to be so tall?
"Yeah, I grew 6 1/2 inches between 7th and 8th grade."
Do you have a nickname your known by on the floor or with your boys or family?
"Yea everyone just calls me J.o."
The Recruiting process can be intense(calls,letters etc), what was your least favorite part of that process?
"Back when text messaging was going on, getting tons of texts from assistant coaches promising you the world. I knew what was real and what wasn't though."
So during that, with offers from the likes of Kentucky, Missouri, UNLV, Virginia and De Paul, who or what put Kansas State above the rest and led you choose them?
"Kansas State was more straight forward with me, Coach Martin told me himself what kind of player I was and how I fit in the system.
Not over the phone, text message or in email, in a man-to-man conversation face to face as he flew into New York to meet me for the very first time."
You mentioned earlier that you knew at a young age that getting out of your neighborhood and many of the distractions is what drove your focus on basketball, how has the toughness you needed to grow up in that environment shaped your game? How does that toughness translate on the court?
"That translates on the court not by physical strength but mental toughness and playing with heart and bringing your game everyday no matter what."
What have current KSU players told you about Scott Greenawalt and the conditioning program?
"That its hell and its no joke and come somewhat prepared or its going to be a rude awakening." (Laughing)
What's the best part of your game and what are you looking to improve upon?
"The best part of my game is my shot blocking and my rebounding ability. Also, I can hit a jumper within 15 feet and I run the floor really well for a big man.
Where I need to really improve is my physical presence and be stronger with my back to the basket."
What type of role do you think you will play as a freshman and what can fans expect?
"Id really like to be that huge presence in the paint next year with my shot blocking ability and being able to change shots but its also very important to get stronger so I will be able to bang with those big-men in the Big 12,especially Cole Aldrich." (Laughing)
So you went the Prep route at Winchendon this year and played for Coach Byrnes to get some things together, are you on track to arrive in Manhattan next season and when are you planning on moving up?
"Yes definitely, Im just waiting for the day I graduate and passing the clearing house. I've also taken my ACT... but going to the Winchendon school was a huge factor in the outcome. All I can really say is that the people there want to help you and I have no regrets being part of the Winchendon Scl.
So just to clarify because this is the question Wildcat fans wonder the most, your on track and have taken and passed the ACT and sent your stuff to the clearinghouse and are waiting for them to tell you what you already know. That about right?
"That is absolutely correct!" (emphatically)
When you heading up?
"All summer, I start the early summer school session in Manhattan"
So the eligibility you now have might not have been possible without the support you got at Winchendon?
"Yes absolutely, if it wasnt for this opportunity I dont think I'd be anywhere close to being able to pass the clearing house"
Having played for the same AAU organization as Curtis Kelly and with former Lincoln HS star Devon Peterson also heading to Manhattan, how important was is it to have some NYC guys with you when you chose Kansas State?
"It helped me with my decision at first because going up against Curtis Kelly in practice everyday as a sophomore and him being the New York Player of The Year really helped adjust my game in High School.
Devon Peterson is a good friend of mine and playing against him Niagara Falls was a good experience."
Devon is a bit of an unknown to many Kansas State fans, could you tell me about his game and what to expect?
"He is guard thats physical and knows how to score the ball. He is really quick and can shoot the ball fairly well. He will definitely be challenging for minutes next year."
So he is that good huh? Sounds like he will make an impact for the Wildcats right away!
"Yes, but he will have to work, nothing comes easy."
Lastly, KSU fans are extremely excited about a recruiting class with yourself, Wally Judge, Rodney McGruder, Nick Russell and Devon Peterson. How well do you know most of these guys and what can you tell us about them?
"All I can say is that just being around them on my official visit... They are all really good people and have good personalities and I can see myself playing with them for the next four years."
Jordan runs the floor extremely well for a kid his size and as his jumper develops his offense will catch up with what is already Division 1 game ready defense that Kansas State desperately needs.
He needs to add a lot of weight to contribute long term, but no team in the Big 12 is a better fit than Scott Greenawalt and Kansas State. His defense will allow him to contribute immediately when he arrives in Manhattan regardless of roster.
This is a great kid thats very tough, its easy to forget how hard it can be for a kid to have to add another year before getting to college and for some its a devastating blow, in Jordan's case its clearly the opposite and this year off may be the best thing that ever happened to him and the Wildcats.
The kid is a raw clone of former LSU and current Golden State Warrior Anthony Randolph.
Their builds are identical at 6'11 with huge wingspans and with Henriquez already weighing more than Randolph does today in the NBA.
While Jordan is not likely a one and done player as Randolph was, all the tools are there and I don't think it will take him long develop them.
Oh how things have changed when Kansas State has three NYC kids on their roster.
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