When I last blogged more than a month ago about the fortunes of Kansas basketball I wrote of my concern about their defense. Saturday I finally saw an inkling of what Kansas is capable of on the defensive end. The only problem with the game with Temple was that the Owls had no inside game. Xavier Henry still gets lost all too often on the defensive end but his offensive game more than makes up for his lack of D.
I've been watchng Kansas in person or on TV for 45 years. I've seen three Jayhawk freshman that made me think NBA. The two might surprise you because of an omission. The trio are Darnell Valentine, Danny Manning and Paul Pierce. Henry may be the fourth.
Valentine is the best high school player I ever saw in person. His last two seasons at Wichita Heights resulted in the Falcons going 45 and 1 with an impressive state title his senior year. As I have written in the past, he's simply one of the best point guards in Kansas history. His physique was beyond belief.
Then there's Paul Pierce. He was silky smooth from the very beginning with a well developed inside and outside game. The only thing lacking his freshman year were his ball handling skills. He could more than hold his own on the defensive end.
Manning was an otherworldly player, one of the greatest collegians ever. He's the best player to ever go graduate from my high school alma mater Lawrence High, even though he only played just one season for the Lions. His freshman year at Kansas he led a talented Jayhawk team to the Final Four. If the college had utilized the 3 point shot that year K.U. would have won the title. Ron Kellogg and Calvin Thompson would have been devastating from the outside and created more opportunities for Manning and center Greg Dreiling.
Xavier Henry has NBA written all over him. He will likely be the first one and done player in Kansas history. Of course, everyone said that of Brandon Rush and Darrel Arthur. I'm already looking forward to his sophomore season.