What happened to former NBA player Xavier Henry?
As quickly as Xavier Henry became well-known, relevant and highly regarded with respect in the basketball world in his early teens or some would say 11 or 12, he become irrelevant to the basketball world just as quickly in his early twenties. Sure, not everyone expected greatness or stardom from the kid many call “X, but few also projected his falling off the basketball map in as short of time as what has transpired, which leads to the question of what led to this unfortunate fall and what Henry is up to nowadays.
But some sure did expect greatness. By his freshman year of high school, he was a 6’5 lefty point forward with real explosiveness, a nice handle, a consistent jumper and a sort-of-cool flare to his game that meant the kid just a few years removed from Osgood Slaughter knee problems successfully attempting and completing windmill dunks. Background, pedigree, tutelage, character and smarts could all accurately be checked off the list of things being looked for in all players: Henry had them all, as he maintained a 4.0 grade average and attended church every single week.
Everyone liked Xavier. And everyone had heard of Xavier— it’s not hard to do so about someone successfully completing windmills and supplanted a position on the best AAU team in the Midwest out of Oklahoma City at 13. His brother CJ was a star player winning multiple state championships between 2002 and 2005 at Putnam City high School in Oklahoma City — a school that Oklahoma Sooner, Heisman Trophy winner and current Minnesota Viking Quarterback Sam Bradford was supposed to attend with both of Henry’s but transferred out of the district to Putnam City’s North High School. CJ was a tough, mature, strong player— a star in his very own right too, as he would choose the millions luring in the first round of the New York Yankees in the 2005 MLB Draft, to list of basketball programs who wanted his services, initially. C.J. took the money, but struggled and was out of baseball after four years of the grueling minor leagues, a move that was then encouraged by their father, former University of Kansas star who had a stint with the Kings of the NBA, Carl Henry.
Xavier’s mother was also a basketball player at Kansas. And his uncle, Joe Adkins, was a star guard next to Dough Gottlieb and Desmond Mason on the Oklahoma State Cowboys basketball team that went to the Elite Eight in 2000. But this is about Xavier, not his family and it’s what came to be of a high school and college star. Xavier selected to attend Kansas his senior year of high school, a move not surprising considering he was following both parents footsteps.
After a great high school, which he accumulated about every honor and award possible, including being named a McDonald’s All-American and being rated as one of the top players in the country, Henry stayed only one year at Kansas in a season that ended with the Jayhawks, losing to Northern Iowa in Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament, sending them home early after squeaking past Bucknell, a game they were supposed to dominate but didn’t even begin to really pull away, until the end. Well, let’s get back to the point: after a promising season averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists a game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point land, it was supposed to be a seamless transition into a very long career in the NBA for the kid compared to Jalen Rose.
But the only thing ending up being long for Henry, was the amount of injuries and the time spent on the bench. He was limited to only playing four games as rookie and never once has played ANY MORE than 50 games of the 82-game regular season. And although the majority of people expected at very least, a fair amount of success as a rookie and earning some type of honors, there were a lot of people who despite Henry’s talent, were not sold on what his game was.
Of course, there was the dribbling with flair that included decisive first steps and dribbling behind the back quickly and effortlessly in transition. And to cap it off, there was the left-handed jump shot that silky smooth and at times as sweet as Skittles. But there were things that were potentially concerning when it came to his game. Although fairly sculpted and strong from a young age, he had a tendency to not be a battler at any level and despite his talent, the opinion of his lack of giving it his all, all the time and a little reputation as that, caused many doubt he had elite NBA toughness and it even became punch line and quick jab for my former AAU coach, Larry Orton, who would tell his own son, former Orlando Magic and Kentucky Wildcats Center, Daniel Orton to quit acting and playing soft like Xavier.
Of course, these jabs were made partially for motivation: they also stemmed from the belief Orton either knew or at least, really believed Xavier did NOT grind and play as hard as he needed to. That, a faulty right hand and the fact he was breaking a normality and typicality in joining Brandon Rush, who did so in 2006, as one of the only players to leave Kansas after “just” one year— rather than continuing on with the promise of a priceless school tuition and assuring his game developing at a university it always does, added to reasons some projected Henry as just a good or fair prospect.
Still, the critiques and great differentiation in opinions by that of scouts didn’t stop or come as warning to the Memphis Grizzlies, who selected him with their first pick and the 12 pick overall. Long story, short: Henry had a good training camp, but only played 38 games because of injuries. The rest of his years in the NBA followed on the same unfortunate trajectory and has meant only one season averaging over 10 points per game and gruesomely ended with the Lakers in December 2014 after he ruptured his Achilles in the month before. He has never played in an NBA game since and further begs the question of what is Henry doing now.
After only a week stay with the Golden State Warriors in 2015, Henry was cut. After a little more than month stay with the Milwaukee Bucks this fall, Henry once again found himself enduring a reality he knows better than he wants to, getting cut, as the Bucks did the same. It’s been a tough ride for X: a good guy that we can all root for based off the fact that we like to see those who have fallen, succeed. And that perseverance is something the devout Catholic, Henry, would certainly attribute to his faith in God and relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now days, it’s not exactly known what he is doing or where he is playing at this exact time. He had a 10- game stint with the Oklahoma City Blue of the G League, where he averaged 9 points in around 20 minutes per game in 2017. His last action in any NBA game came in December 2014. Henry has never played in all 82 regular season games.
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