Before leaving the gym, Henry had a message for Kansas fans.
"Just be ready for next year," he said. "We going to come up there and have a lot of fun. Hopefully, we will win it all next year. Get a National Championship, which would be two in three years." JayhawkSlant: Henry has message for fans
So twiddley-dee, twiddley-dum Look out baby, 'cause here I come.
And I'm bringing you a love that's true. So get ready, so get ready. I'm gonna try to make you love me too. So get ready, so get ready 'cause here I come.
(Get ready 'cause here I come) I'm on my way. (Get ready 'cause here I come) (Get ready 'cause here I come-a) (Get ready)
Kansas men’s basketball head coach Bill Self announced Thursday that standout guard Xavier Henry has signed a grant-in aid agreement to play at Kansas for the 2009-10 season.
A McDonald’s and Parade All-American this last season, Henry led Putnam City High School, in Oklahoma City, to the 6A state championship this past season averaging 28.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.1 assists per game. Additionally, Henry shot 55 percent from the field, including 43 percent from three-point range. He also guided the Pirates to the state title his freshman year.
“It’s a huge get,” Self said. “Not only did we get one of the best prospects in the country, a player that certainly fills a need on the perimeter for us, but we also recruited his family for several years and to see everything come full circle and come back to KU, I think it’s a huge get for the University of Kansas.” KU AD (Link has press conference and Bill Self quotes)
"I've always loved Kansas, I've always watched them and it's always been a dream school for me,'' said Henry, who is considered the third-rated prospect in the country by both Rivals.com and ESPNU. AP
Xavier Henry held the cell phone in his massive left hand, waiting for his older brother, C.J., to answer. Only then could Xavier continue with the announcement that he would play basketball at Kansas next season.
It had been that way all year, the younger brother with a bright NBA future being considerate of the less-celebrated big brother who hadn't played in a game since 2005.
..."I know Xavier's heart was with Kansas when he chose Memphis," said Barbara, who sat by Xavier's side during a news conference Thursday at Putnam City High.
Barbara was proud of Xavier for making family a priority. He had just been involved in a serious car accident, and it scared him, made him want to pull closer to the ones he loved. Barbara would move to Memphis, her boys were going to be Tigers, and that was that.
Of course, everything changed during the last four weeks. Barbara and Xavier were out eating pizza one night when they first saw a rumor of Calipari's interest in Kentucky fly across the bottom of a TV screen. Xavier promptly grabbed his phone and sent a text message to Calipari.
"He was really bothered by it," Barbara said, "that it was becoming real. Although they hadn't announced, Coach Cal explained how that was always a dream of his."
The dream became reality days later while Xavier was in Miami at the McDonald's All-American Game. The McDonald's game was supposed to be a celebration of Xavier's prolific prep career and his promising future at Memphis.
"That's a big shock for a kid," Barbara said.
Xavier immediately named Kansas as one of his leaders. Barbara wanted to make sure Xavier had different priorities this time.
"I told him, 'You sacrificed once because you wanted to play with your brother. Now, where do you absolutely want to play?' " Barbara said. "And he wanted to play at Kansas."
Well, so what took so long? That's what the legions of KU fans that have spent the last three weeks hitting the refresh button on their Web browsers would probably want to know.
The reopening of the Henrys' recruitment took on a life of its own more than any other in program history. There were so many questions: Would they choose KU? Would they follow Calipari? Would they stick with Memphis because C.J. may not be able to play next season because of NCAA transfer rules?
...C.J., who originally chose Kansas in 2005, will move into Jayhawker Towers with his little brother four years later. Barbara said she expected C.J. to be cleared to play next season because he walked on at Memphis (as a part of C.J.'s contract with the Yankees, the franchise is paying for his college education). C.J., a point guard, sat out last season because of a fractured foot that Barbara said was about 85 percent healthy.
What all of this means is that Barbara can return to Lawrence to live for the first time since 1985.
"I never thought they would play together," said Barbara, who works at Hertz and plans to do the same in Lawrence. "That's the most awesome thing."
Coach Bill Self thought it was pretty awesome, too, when he received word that the Henrys had chosen the Jayhawks on Tuesday. Self remembered how he felt in November when Xavier slipped on a Memphis hat.
"I was crushed," Self said.
Self, who couldn't yet talk about C.J. because he had not been admitted to KU, couldn't have been happier for a second chance to coach Xavier.
"I think Xavier is the highest-rated player we've ever signed," Self said of Henry, who once held the No. 1 overall spot in the ESPN100. "Few players in high school possess the body, the strength, the explosion and the perimeter shooting ability that Xavier has."
...C.J. Henry hasn't played an organized game of basketball since 2005, and he'll have plenty of competition next season at Kansas. Henry, a point guard, would have to overtake Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar and incoming freshman Elijah Johnson, among others, for playing time.
"As long as I'm healthy and in shape," Henry said, "my game is gonna end up speaking for itself. So I think I'm gonna play."
Any impact from C.J. would be an added bonus. C.J. will walk on because his professional baseball contract with the New York Yankees demands that the franchise pay for his schooling.
Xavier and C.J. Henry both would like to wear No. 13 at Kansas just like their father, Carl Henry. Of course, that number also belonged to Wilt Chamberlain.
"I’ve always dreamed of going to Kansas,” Xavier Henry said. "I’ve always wanted to, but I took a step back for my brother at Memphis, and now that he’s cleared anywhere, I’ll get my chance to play at Kansas.”
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Putnam City had initially signed with Memphis, but was released from the school when John Calipari left the Tigers to take over at Kentucky. After considering whether to follow Calipari to Kentucky or to follow his family ties to Kansas, Henry finally settled on the Jayhawks.
Kansas coach Bill Self was elated to have another shot at Henry.
"It’s very fitting for us as a university and our alums,” Self said in an afternoon teleconference after Henry’s papers arrived at Kansas. "It’s a big deal for Kansas basketball. Kansas has recruited well over the years, but I don’t know that we’ve had a chance to bring in a player like this whose parents both played here. That makes it even more special for me personally.”
...Xavier Henry said his parents didn’t try to force him into going to Kansas. Barbara, though, made no secret of her desire for her sons to go to Kansas.
"They knew where I stood and what I would prefer,” Barbara Henry said. "And that was Kansas.”
The decision to go to Kansas this time took longer than it might have had C.J.’s status been clear. The older Henry brother, who signed with Kansas out of high school, was a walk-on at Memphis this year after giving up professional baseball but missed the entire season with an injury. Because Memphis did not recruit him and he was not a scholarship player, he is allowed to transfer once without sitting out a season, according to the Henrys.
"I’m excited my plan still worked out,” Xavier Henry said. "I still get to play with my brother.” The Oklahoman*
Xavier Henry actually cell-phoned coach Bill Self with his decision to become a Kansas Jayhawk after a workout on Tuesday night in Putnam City High’s gym.
“Coach Self was really excited, especially having the both of us,” Xavier said, noting brother C.J., a Memphis freshman guard, is also headed to KU.
“Coach asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ He wanted me to be serious. I said, ‘I’m coming.’’’
...Henry said he’s good buddies with several of the current KU players. Of late, he’s spent time talking to Mario Little and Cole Aldrich.
“Mario called after his surgery (on lower left leg last week),” Xavier said. “He wanted to make sure I was doing all right. Cole just talked to me like a regular person, wanted to see what I was up to.”
...Self, who has an incoming class of the Henry brothers, Elijah Johnson, Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, believes he’s finished recruiting for the coming season.
“For this year it looks that way,” he said. “I don’t know if you are ever done. We can focus in on young underclassmen we are trying to get in future years.
“This year’s class will go down as one of the premier classes in the country in large part due to our late addition,” Self added. “I’m excited. We didn’t lose any key components from this past year and were able to add some. I think it makes for great competition in practice and makes us much harder to guard.”
?Red-shirts?: Self was asked if he’d red-shirt any players next season with so much talent on the roster.
“I won’t talk about that now, but that’s always a possibility. I do what is best for the program and would if it’s in the best interest to do so.” LJW
Self ? he acknowledged that Xavier Henry was the highest-recruited player “across the board” he’s ever pursued ? also addressed the one-and-done issue.
“I don’t know. He certainly has the potential to be that,” Self said. “I wouldn’t stand in his way of being that. Based on my talks with him, his whole deal is ‘I want to go to college, be a college kid, go help the University of Kansas win a title.’ When the time is right, he’ll know it’s right. If we play well, those things take care of themselves. I know he’s unselfish and will be thinking along those (unselfish) lines.”
Self said Henry gives KU something it didn’t have a year ago ? somebody who can guard an opponent’s tall wing player.
“He’s built like Brandon (Rush),” Self said. “He’s one of the few guys who has a chance of shooting it like Brandon. He’s a true big guard. He can put the ball down, get to the hole, and get fouled. He’s a versatile offensive player.”
Since Self couldn’t comment, here’s Putnam City High coach A.D. Burtschi’s take on C.J. Henry’s game:
“C.J. played a lot of point for us, particularly his senior year,” Burtschi said, noting C.J. was recruited by KU, North Carolina and others. He orally committed to KU in April of 2005 before inking the Yankee contract.
“He’s a guy who could be a pure 2 (off guard), but if you need him to be a 2, how are you going to get his brother out of the way?” Burtschi joked.
“He’s a great athlete. Here’s a guy that stepped out of his basketball jersey after the state final, plays his first baseball game the next day and hits two home runs. People worry about the fact he hasn’t played basketball in three years. With his competitive spirit ... I believe that will serve him until he gets the rust off. No doubt he loves competition.” LJW
In late summer of 1981, Barbara Adkins enrolled for her freshman year at Kansas University. Adkins had been recruited out of an Oklahoma City high school to play basketball for the Jayhawks.
Soon thereafter, Carl Henry, who had already enrolled for his junior year at Oklahoma City University, abruptly left that school, informing his roommate he was transferring to KU.
...Henry would pay a stiff price for following his heart. The new OCU coach was so miffed about his best player’s departure that he refused to grant him a release, meaning Henry couldn’t receive any KU scholarship money during the 1981-82 season while sitting out under NCAA transfer rules.
So there Henry was on Mount Oread unable to play basketball and hurting for money when he could have been playing on full scholarship in his hometown.
...Henry earned second-team All-Big Eight honors as a junior, leading the Jayhawks in scoring at 17.4 ppg. Then as a senior he averaged 16.8 ppg. and was a first-team all-league selection.
It didn’t take long for Kansas fans to realize Henry was a natural forward trapped in a guard’s body. He was listed at 6-foot-4, yet was as good around the basket as any KU player I’ve ever seen. Blessed with an uncanny knack for retrieving loose balls and earning stick-backs, Henry was the prototype “garbage man.”
If he had been four or five inches taller, Henry would have enjoyed a lengthy NBA career. But at 6-4 you have to be able to shoot from distance to be successful in the pros, and Henry’s maximum range was about 15 feet.
What about Adkins? Four inches shorter than Henry, she wasn’t quite as talented as her boyfriend, who would become her husband. Still, she had a productive four-year career with the Jayhawks by averaging 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds a game.
Her sister Vickie, however, was one of the best basketball players in Kansas history. Vickie Adkins, a 6-1 forward, became a three-time All-Big Eight selection.
Vickie still ranks No. 4 on KU’s career scoring chart.
Clearly, Carl Henry Jr. and Xavier Henry, sons and nephews of former Jayhawks, owe a lot to genetics. LJW Woodling
But when it came down to it, Xavier could not imagine passing up the chance to play for the team he grew up watching. Xavier and C.J. picked Kansas Tuesday during a phone conversation. Afterward, Xavier called Self and told him the news.
“He asked me something like, ‘Are you positively sure this is where you are coming?’” Xavier said.
Yes, Xavier assured Self with a laugh. After one of the longest and most up-and-down recruitments of Self’s tenure at Kansas, Henry was sure.
Sure he wanted to play at Allen Fieldhouse, where he has attended Late Night in the Phog since he was a child. Sure he wanted to carry on his parents’ legacy. Sure he wanted to join Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich to form a nucleus that will make Kansas the favorite to win the 2010 national championship.
“They say they were going to be close to preseason No. 1 next year without me,” Xavier said. “Now they say with me, we’re preseason No. 1 for sure. I just want to play on the best team next year and have a chance to win the national championship.”
Friday night, Xavier will attend prom at Putnam City High. He said he was looking forward to “chilling” for the last month of high school before he headed to Lawrence for the summer.
The Henrys have made no definitive plans for when they will arrive on campus. But Xavier said he would wait until C.J. came home to make the move. They’ll arrive in Kansas together. UDK
A boy whose name sounded like it was Michael McCule was in trouble, or otherwise required at the front office at Putnam City High School.
The monotone announcement ? “Michael McCule, please come to the front office. Michael McCule.” ? kept leaping out of the speakers, interrupting C.J. Henry, who at the time was trying to explain via the hopelessly overmatched speakerphone feature of a Palm Centro why he had gone to Memphis, left, and then decided to follow his brother, Xavier Henry, to Kansas.
“Ehhhhhh,” C.J. said. “I’m not really following him ...” And then this McCule kid was paged again.
Figured. In perhaps the balkiest recruiting saga in KU history ? the commitments to Memphis, the on-again, off-again visits to Kentucky, the unconfirmed-but-probably-true reports ? C.J. sat there balking in speech just trying to explain it all.
The totality of the whole deal had Barbara Henry, the boys’ mother, pondering free will and Providence.
“Things happen for a reason,” she said.
In the end, all that happened (or all that really mattered) was that Xavier and C.J. had decided to play basketball at Kansas. Both will be eligible to play in 2009 because the NCAA granted C.J., who took a medical redshirt as a walkon at Memphis last season, a one-time exception to the transfer rules that would otherwise have forced him to sit out a year.
And if you’re thinking that this never was about C.J., you’d be right. Except that you’d also be wrong.
Xavier Henry wanted to play at Kansas all along. But what he wanted more than that was to play with C.J., and C.J. wanted to play for John Calipari at Memphis.
So Xavier put himself second.
“I love my brother and I love my family,” Xavier said. “I’d do anything for my family. It didn’t matter to me.”
Barbara Henry, the boys’ mother, tells it differently. She knew it did matter, but that Xavier had made a sacrifice for his brother. So when Calipari left Memphis and the boys re-opened their recruitment, she hoped Xavier would exercise his own free will.
“You sacrificed once because you wanted to play with your brother. Now, where do you absolutely want to play?” Barbara recalls asking him. “And he wanted to play at Kansas.”
...This was a kid Self thought he had all along. Xavier had been going to KU games and Late Night in the Phog since he was in junior high. Both Barbara and Carl Henry are former KU basketball players. C.J. had even committed to Kansas in 2005 before electing to play professional baseball instead (a career he gave up after three minor league seasons).
Even when C.J. decided to play at Memphis, Self felt pretty good about Xavier’s recruitment.
But last fall Xavier got in a car wreck and busted his face up pretty good. It was scary. And he was away from his big brother, who he’d been with all his life. In November, Xavier went on ESPNU in a black suit with a swollen face and jammed a Memphis hat on his puffy hair.
“I was crushed,” Self said.
Five months later, he strolled into the same Putnam City High gym, but there was no suit, no hat, no swelling, (almost) no hair. Just basketball shorts, a T-shirt, a tribal necklace and a smile you couldn’t have scraped off with a belt sander.
He sat down.
“When I grew up, all I was watching was Kansas,” he said. “I switched it a little bit with Memphis because of my brother, and then somehow I got switched back, now I’m going to Kansas.”
It was hard even for Xavier himself to say how that was. It was all so confusing, so big. It was just somehow. The Henry boys figure they’ll room together, and they figure they’ll play a game to see who gets to wear No. 13, just like their father did. It’s all over, and they’re together. Kansas got its super recruit. Carl and Barbara will get to see their sons play for their alma mater.
“Everybody has it their way,” Xavier said. “So it’s a good deal.” TCJ*
"I'm just excited about being able to take my game to the next level," Henry said. "(Kansas) Coach (Bill) Self is really excited, especially now that he has both of us. He asked me, are you sure? I wanted to play for a really good team."
Henry had planned a visit to Kentucky this weekend but abruptly canceled that visit and will instead go to Putnam County's prom. He said he's glad to get the recruiting behind him.
"I'm just ready to chill out and have fun," Henry said. "The recruiting was very stressful. My dad (Carl, who was a captain on Kansas' 1983 and 1984 teams) wanted it to be over more than me and C.J. did. He was excited that we made up our mind." USA Today
Henry, who announced his decision to attend Kansas on Thursday, is the nation's No. 3 recruit and one of the best perimeter scorers in the Class of 2009. With Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins returning, Henry should be a complement to the Jayhawks' All-American upperclassmen. Henry will create space for Aldrich down low with his 3-point shooting ability and give Collins another weapon to look for in transition and off penetration.
With so much returning talent in Lawrence, Henry won't be under a ton of pressure. He should slide right in at the 3 -- playing next to Collins and Tyshawn Taylor.
Henry's athleticism and effort should help him be a great fit at KU. Kansas plays pressure defense, especially on the wings, that can lead to many transition baskets. In the half court, the Jayhawks often look to a high-low set that could give Henry plenty of open looks from outside. Kansas also likes to run many high ball screens, which should also be beneficial to Henry; he can turn those opportunities into high-percentage shots. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Henry is his size. He stands 6-foot-6 and possesses an NBA-ready body (weighing in around 230 pounds).
When he gets in the lane, Henry carries the defender on his hip and finishes through contact with ease.
Henry completes a stellar recruiting class for Bill Self. The Jayhawks also will bring in ESPNU 100 prospects PF Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy (N.H.)) and G Elijah Johnson (Las Vegas/Cheyenne). In Robinson, the Jayhawks will be adding bruiser in the low post who hits the boards with tenacity. Johnson is a terrific playmaking guard who can play either the 1 or the 2. In our most recent recruiting class rankings Kansas checked in at No. 22, but they will be significantly higher in our final tally at the end of the late signing period. ESPN
Xavier Henry's commitment to Kansas put five of the top 15 players in the latest ESPNU top 100 in the Big 12 next season, including No. 1 Avery Bradley (Texas), No. 3 Henry (Kansas), No. 8 Jordan Hamilton (Texas), No. 11 Keith Gallon (Oklahoma) and No. 15 Wallace Judge (Kansas State).
If you stretch it out to the top 50, the list includes No. 24 Tommy Mason-Griffin (Oklahoma), No. 28 Elijah Johnson (Kansas), No. 40 Thomas Robinson (Kansas) and No. 50 Karron Johnson (Oklahoma State). A total of 20 players in the top 100 are off to the Big 12. Andy Katz
Don't expect Lance Stephenson or John Wall to be talking about Kansas anymore.
Bill Self isn't. He said Thursday that he is done recruiting the 2009 class.
"For this year, it looks that way," Self said. "We can really focus in on the young underclassmen."
Kansas' top target from the 2010 class appears to be small forwards Harrison Barnes of Ames, Iowa., the No. 4 player in the class according to Rivals.com. TCJ*
8:15 p.m. (10/18/08)
After a short talk by Self (One of his highlights: "Three years ago, we had a lot of newcomers, and look what happened three years later."), a 10-minute video montage shows highlights from Jayhawks in the NBA. Fans must love recent history, as the largest cheers came from, in this order: Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, and then Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison.
In the background, I hear a faint "We want Hen-ry" chant from the crowd. The fans, obviously, are trying to help recruit Xavier Henry ? the No. 3-ranked prospect in the class of 2009 ? with his decision for college. I'm sure, in his spot in the row behind KU's bench, that he heard it. 2008 Late Night in the Phog
April 23 -May 21 = Quiet Period
Quiet period. During this time, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents off the college's campus. The coach may not watch you play or visit your high school during this period. You and your parents may visit a college campus during this time. A coach may write or telephone you or your parents during this time.
Stephenson is expected to announce within the next few days whether he will attend Kansas, Maryland or St. John’s. Rumors are floating that he might hold a press conference Friday, but a source inside the Lincoln athletic department told SNY’s Brooklyn Sal Thursday morning via email that that was “absolutely false.”
As of Thursday, sources indicated the family was still weighing its options. Zag's Blog
The Lance Stephenson saga is finally nearing a finale. Hopefully.
With the news that Xavier Henry, the talented shooting guard out of Putnam City, Okla., who has been connected with Stephenson for weeks, has committed to Kansas, it would seem Stephenson has to choose between Maryland, where teammates James Padgett is committed to, and St. John’s.
One source close to the 6-foot-6 Stephenson, ranked first in his class by the Hoop Scoop, said Henry picking Kansas, “may cause certain dominoes to fall. It might happen (soon).”
What does this mean for St. John’s? Who knows?
His father, Lance Stephenson Sr., who has told reporters his son is academically qualified, didn’t return repeated voicemail messages. But chances are good, better than they have been in the Norm Roberts era, of St. John’s landing a McDonald’s All-American. FiveBoroSports.com
At around 9 tonight, he will arrive in South Florida.
The University of Miami is expected to begin the process of wooing standout John Wall, a point guard from Word of God (N.C.) Academy. Wall, considered one of the nation's top five players, has narrowed his list to seven schools: N.C. State, Duke, Baylor, Kansas, Miami, Kentucky and Memphis. He will trim it further on Monday.
The Hurricanes are the darkest of darkhorses.
It will be hard for coach Frank Haith to land a player Wall's caliber. The Hurricanes lack the tradition of all the schools on the list, except Baylor. But the Bears even have an advantage because they hired Wall's former AAU coach last August.
That's not to say the Hurricanes don't have a shot. If not, they wouldn't have remained in the mix for so long. Haith has aggressively recruited Wall the last several months. The UM coaches were there when Wall played in the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers. Wall attended the Hurricanes' game at Duke. And now here is Haith's chance to play the role of Kyle Bellamy and close this out.
Here's a look at it from both sides:
WHY THE HURRICANES WILL GET WALL
I'm not going to get into the South Beach factor, the pretty girls or the Miami lifestyle. We're talking about an elite basketball player who is going to be the center of attention wherever he ends up. Wall could have a good time at Illinois State or Davidson just because he's an athlete.
The true advantage for the Hurricanes is Wall's situation. Everything about Wall screams NBA. He's got an entourage. You have to go through a Brian Butler-type to get to him. And I'm not saying Wall is bad guy. He's just used to the spotlight.
Wall is pretty much a one-and-done player. He's not attending college for the experience or even to win a national title. He's only doing it because David Stern won't allow him NBA entrance yet. His one season is only a chance to show off for the scouts.
But as good as Wall is, he's NOT going to be handed the keys at Kentucky or Kansas. There's just too much talent there. What UM offers is the opportunity to be the go-to guy from Day One. He probably instantly becomes the `Canes best player. He will take on the role Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans flourished in at Memphis. WHY THE
HURRICANES WON'T GET WALL
I'm just going to be blunt, but South Florida fans just don't care about basketball. And they probably never will. Just look at the NCAA Tournament regional that was hosted at AmericanAirlines Arena. It was so bad the NCAA likely won't ever bring that event back here. I can leave my house for UM home games 45 minutes before tip-off and still make it for the national anthem because there's no traffic outside BankUnited Center. If I tried that at Wake Forest or North Carolina, I'd be better off covering the game from a nearby sportsbar. After most UM basketball games, the first blog comment is, "So, how's Jacory shoulder?"
The good news is Wall could be a program-changer. If he brings success, the fans will come out. Just like they did late in the 2008 season.
We'll see what happens. Regardless, it's a victory for the UM program. The fact Wall is even considering the Hurricanes just shows that Haith is capable of competing with the big boys. In time, expect Haith's recruiting base to only expand. Sun-Sentinel
Near as I can figure, barring any late updates, that makes 22 of ESPNU’s Top 100 heading for Big 12 country, provided all qualify academically.
And results are yet to come from the NCAA clearinghouse on ’08 Longhorns signee J’Covan Brown, who, if approved, could be in Austin by June. Brown, formerly the state’s top-rated player, qualifies as another Top 50 type if he shows up on a roster that also is likely to draw top five consideration in the preseason polls.
Discounting Henry, Dennis and Brown, the conference already had been declared kingpin of the November signing period.
"The clear winner of conferences" is how rivals.com described it.
Coupled with the performance by the Big 12 in NCAA Tournament play and Baylor’s drive to the NIT finals in what was supposed to be a down year, the conference was given a double positive postseason bounce.
Though repeatedly dissed by talking heads, the league apparently wasn’t all that bad last season. Big 12 teams won a conference-high nine NCAA Tournament games through two rounds ? second only to the Big East, which has, what, 20-30 teams now?
ESPN game and studio analyst Fran Fraschilla was one of the few talking heads who noticed, mainly because he saw a lot of league teams play live.
"Because there was so much attention paid to the Big East and ACC this year ? and for the most part rightfully so ? the Big 12 turned out to be a much better league than the experts on the East Coast realized," Fraschilla said during a recent conversation, firing a shot across the bow of some of his compadres. "And that was borne out in the postseason."
Regular season, too.
The league set yet another attendance figure by drawing more than two million fans for the third consecutive season, according to Big 12 office figures.
Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Kansas State in addition to the Big Three (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma) also made impressive recruiting hauls.
The Aggies recently supplemented their list by adding guard Jeremy Adams, the No. 2 recruit from the state of Mississippi, who averaged 27.2 points a game last season.
Couple all this with the return of Oklahoma’s Willie Warren and the reasonable likelihood that Texas’ Damion James and A&M’s Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis and Chinemelu Elonu will be back and it looks like the league will be hard to ignore next season. FW Star-Telegram
KC Star photo
Around College Basketball
University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari will never be out of reach.
Calipari has joined the latest Internet craze and created his own Twitter account. With the launch of Calipari’s official Twitter account, UKCoachCalipari, fans can receive instant updates, or “tweets,” directly from Coach Calipari on the Internet or on their mobile phone.
Fans can go to https://twitter.com/UKCoachCalipari to follow Coach Calipari’s Twitter account. Link
Connecticut freshman basketball player Ater Majok, whose name has come up in recruiting allegations against the school, has declared for the NBA draft.
Majok, a 6-foot-10 forward, says he won't hire an agent and intends to get feedback from the NBA and return to school. He has until June 15 to withdraw his name and retain his eligibility.
Majok, a former refugee from Sudan, is not eligible to play at Connecticut until the end of the 2009 fall semester.
Reports have linked Josh Nochimson, a former UConn student manager, to the appearance of Majok at a basketball tournament last year in Kentucky. Phone calls between Nochimson and UConn's assistant coaches are at the center of a NCAA investigation into possible recruiting violations. AP
Judy Cunigan sits in the darkened living room of her modest house in Louisville's South End. The blinds are drawn on this spring afternoon. The doors are dead-bolted.
She is fearful. And she is furious.
"I want to kill him," she says, "for what he's done to my family."
The object of her rage is arguably the most popular and powerful man in town: Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.
What Cunigan alleges Pitino has done to her family dates back more than five years, when her daughter, then Karen Cunigan and now Karen Sypher, first met the coach. The family has never filed any criminal complaints or civil claims against Pitino, and to date, their allegations remain so unsubstantiated that they cannot even be reported responsibly. As one source close to the situation put it, "There are severe credibility problems here."
What can be reported is that Karen Sypher -- now the estranged wife of Louisville basketball equipment manager Tim Sypher -- is under federal investigation for allegedly extorting Pitino.
Since the story broke Saturday evening with a University of Louisville news release that Pitino had gone to the FBI to report an attempted extortion, this basketball-mad city has been in an uproar. And since Karen Sypher was identified by a Louisville TV station that night as the primary individual under investigation, it has thrown a previously anonymous mother of five into the middle of a media maelstrom.
Message boards are melting down. Talk-show hosts are dancing their way around delicate (and potentially defamatory) topics. Few people have first-hand information, but many have vicious opinions about a celebrity coach and a woman they'd never heard of before Saturday.
"It's like an out-of-body experience," Karen Sypher said in a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon. "It's like I'm not here. It's a terrible, terrible nightmare. … I feel like I'm being stoned to death because I talked."
...Karen Sypher said tearfully Tuesday afternoon that her name has been dragged through the mud, and wondered how she would ever get another job. Yet she agreed to meet with an ESPN.com reporter despite the urging of her attorney, Thomas Clay, to keep quiet.
In fact, Karen Sypher told ESPN.com that Clay quit as her attorney Tuesday because his client would not stop publicly airing her grievances against Pitino, and, to a lesser extent, grievances against her own husband. Clay said Wednesday that he does still represent Karen Sypher, at least as of the time of the phone call.
"[Clay] has not helped me," Karen Sypher said earlier in the day by phone. "He tells me to keep my mouth shut and he'll keep me out of prison. This is ridiculous. What have I got to lose here?
"I feel like I'm in this web here, and I didn't start it. I am the victim here, not Rick Pitino, and I'm sick of it." ESPN Pat Forde