I know we're just one game into the season, and I'm not normally one to praise so highly so quickly, but Xavier Henry is a special basketball player.
His 27 debut points, the most ever in a debut by a Kansas freshman, by the way, weren't the only things that impressed me in last night's contest with Hofstra, either.
He crashes the offensive boards, gets physical in the paint, sprints out on fast breaks, plays solid defense, and even gets on the floor after loose balls.
I always question the ego and work ethic in players of his caliber, but I think these are some intangibles offered by Henry that may not have been readily available in a guy like Lance Stephenson.
I'm not ready to declare the McDonald's All-American the second coming of Paul Pierce just yet; his defense is solid but his technique is a little unrefined, and I'd like to see him scoring inside of the arc a little more.
There's just something about him though...
His style and scenario remind me a little bit of Brandon Rush. It's easy to see how his athleticism, strength, length, and super sweet jumper are very comparable.
He, like Rush, was the final perfect piece of a brilliant recruiting puzzle. Henry joined Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson this summer, while Rush decided against the NBA to team up with Mario Chalmers, Julian Wright, Micah Downs, and, ironically, a verbally committed (but ultimately unsigned) C.J. Henry.
One factor that really makes Rush and Henry similar is the way put their points on the board. Rush was a constant factor and could lead the team in scoring without having a play called for him. Xavier may not be to that point just yet, but thus far he has certainly displayed a very comparable knack for fitting in.
Still, the way Henry lights up a crowd reminds me less of Brandon Rush and, surprisingly, more of Julian Wright.
Henry and Wright don't share much as far as their individual strengths and weaknesses on the court. However, when I watch Henry elevate for a put-back, pop the trey, or even lay out for a loose ball, I think of Julian Wright.
I can't count the number of times I watched Rush tally 25 points and I wouldn't believe it until I saw it on paper. He had a way of doing things subtly, quietly, and super-efficiently.
Henry is more Wright-esque in that every single time the ball is near him, fans are on the edge of their seats.
Every one of Wright's emphatic rejections and vicious facials left Allen Fieldhouse in a frenzy.
Last night when Henry threw down that put-back slam off the offensive glass, it didn't matter who the Jayhawks playing or how far ahead they were; the roar of the crowd could've rivaled the noise made during Border Showdowns in Naismith Stadium.
Even Henry's three-pointers draw unusually ravenous applause from the KU faithful. (Maybe it's just because he's left-handed?)
Part of this is probably a result of being such highly touted recruits, or even because of their natural charisma. Maybe Henry reminds me of Wright because they simply look more intimidating than the smooth, boyish appearance of Rush.
It could even be that every play Henry makes brings him one step closer to being everything and more than fans could ever have hoped for.
All I know is that each time he touches the ball, Jayhawks fall even more in love with him. He could become a huge factor in big games this season because of nothing more than his ability to single-handedly excite an entire stadium.
Most importantly, though, Henry appears ready to do his individual job as a piece of the well-oiled machine that is Kansas basketball.
It doesn't have to be done subtly as long as it's done right, and doing it right is what could help catapult both Henry and his fellow Jayhawks into the Kansas history books once more.
Any added excitement is just a fan's bonus.
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