Ever get an image that creeps into your mind and you can’t keep it from coming back to haunt you? That’s what happened to me Wednesday while Xavier Henry, between tears, eventually got around to saying he’s going to the NBA.
The haunting image was of a 12-year-old boy who broke down and cried after drilling a batter on the neck with a pitch in a Little League game. He was only doing what his father told him to do and executed the pitch perfectly. Drilled the boy right on the neck, knocked him to the dirt, brought him to tears. Still, it didn’t seem right to him, so he was crying too. The more Xavier talked through the tears, the more this haunting daydream invaded my ability to focus, such as it is.
It was the most uncomfortable news conference I’ve ever attended. Here was Henry, so composed as to be robot-like on the court, sobbing while talking about how quickly he bonded with teammates, how much he learned from his coach. The tears and the compliments came across as 100 percent sincere.
It took Xavier three minutes and four seconds before he finally brought himself to say the words that it seemed he didn’t want to say. It took him that long to say he’s going to the NBA.
His brother, C.J., a walk-on on the KU basketball team, sat next to Xavier, wearing the expression of a body guard. When asked about how his brother’s decision impacted his plans, C.J. said he was not here to discuss his future. In doing so, he called to mind Mark McGwire testifying before Congress saying he didn’t want to discuss the past.
Xavier’s NBA career could have a happy ending, but it got off to a sad start. He was bawling so hard that at one point Kansas sports information direction Chris Theisen pulled three tissues from a box and handed them to coach Bill Self, seated beside Xavier.
Never one to pass up a chance to crack up a room — this one needed some light air pumped into it — Self took the tissues and tucked them under his glasses, dabbing at his eyes and laughing before passing them to Xavier.
Asked how he wanted his time at Kansas to be remembered, Xavier came across as the teenager that he is.
“Honestly, I would rather be remembered for the person I was off the court, a fun-loving kid,” he said. “I’m just a kid. I’m always smiling. I’m as nice as can be.”
It was evident Self has a genuine fondness for Henry.
“He’s a nice kid,” Self said. “He was pretty stone-faced, for the most part (on the court). He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. Some people might not have thought he was enjoying himself as much as he was. I think he really loved it here. That’s what made his decision difficult for him.”
That’s also what makes his decision difficult to understand. Sure, it’s tough to exercise patience when the money awaiting is outrageous.
Here’s hoping Henry makes a ton of it, but I’m not going to waste any energy hoping he enjoys it as much as he did playing college basketball.
None of them ever do.