C.J. Henry remembers hanging out with his younger brother, Xavier, as well as his mom and dad on June 7, 2005 — the day he was selected No. 17 overall in the Major League Baseball draft.
“I was just waiting for a phone call. We were watching something on TV, chilling, relaxing,” Henry recalled of the scene in Oklahoma City.
“I guess it was kind of a relief,” Henry added of his emotions when the New York Yankees’ general manager called to inform him he’d be soon fitted for pinstripes.
“I wasn’t too stressed about it because I knew I was going to get picked. In baseball, there’s 50 rounds. I had expectations of going in the first round just because I knew my talent level. When I heard my name was called I was like, ‘That’s good.’’’
The cool, calm, collected Henry, who ultimately received a $1.6 million signing bonus, figures to show a bit more emotion Thursday night.
That’s when the 24-year-old Kansas University junior basketball guard will watch his 19-year-old brother become the family’s second first-round draft pick.
Xavier, a 6-6 guard who elected to turn pro after one year at KU, is considered a likely lottery (top 14) selection.
“I’ll probably be happier (than he was for himself in ’05),” said C.J., who will be with Xavier on draft night. As of Monday, the Henrys did not know whether they’d congregate in New York, site of the draft, or Okie City.
“He is living out his dream, getting picked, both of our dreams getting picked to play professional sports.”
Draft experts believe Xavier will be taken anywhere from Nos. 8 (Los Angeles Clippers) to 19 (Boston). Many believe Xavier will ultimately be tapped at No. 15 by Milwaukee, where he worked out on Monday before heading to Boston for a final practice session with the Celtics today.
“A little bit,” C.J., said, asked if he’d be let down if Xavier didn’t strike the lottery jackpot. “He’s got lottery talent. Everybody knows that because if they didn’t have the one-and-done rule, he would have gone straight from high school to the pros — I think then as a lottery pick.
“I’d be a little disappointed because he deserves it. (But) it doesn’t really matter how high you go, even though everybody wants to go as high as they can. To go to the right team and be in the right spot to get playing time and develop and grow under somebody ... that’s just as important, if not more than, getting drafted a couple of spots higher.”
KU coach Bill Self has said Henry is in incredible physical condition and has been better than advertised in workouts in NBA cities.
“That’s all I’ve heard from talking to coaches and people around the NBA game,” C.J. Henry said. “They say he’s helped himself a lot during the interview process. He’s been great and in the workouts he’s been great. He’s worked hard.”
As has C.J., who has been in Lawrence for summer school.
“I’m getting there,” the 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior combo guard said, asked if he was in the best shape of his life. “That’s what the summer is for ... (I’m) glad it’s hot.”
Henry — he battled injuries while playing sparingly his first season at KU — showed some crazy athleticism last week while dunking for Bill Self’s campers.
“Yeah,” C.J. Henry said, asked if his KU teammates teased him after his and Elijah Johnson’s high-flying dunk show, “because they hadn’t seen anything from me. They hadn’t seen me play in high school (at Putnam City). Most guys don’t know me from playing back then. I’ve still got a long ways to go in my mind. It’s fun. It makes me work harder, I guess.
“I’m focused on getting better every day, focused being around the guys, getting to know them and preparing myself for what the season will be. I’m trying to be the best player I can be, because whatever the team needs will help us win more games.”