Xavier Henry, a former lottery pick out of Kansas in the 2010 NBA draft, signed with the Lakers on Sept. 5. He took part in workouts and light scrimmages at the Lakers facility with some of the coaching staff and his teammates during his first day in L.A.. We spoke with the 6-foot-6 swingman and asked him a little about his experience playing at Kansas, his journey thus far in the league and more. Below is a transcription of our conversation:
Trevor Wong: Was there there was anything specifically that attracted you to come to Los Angeles?
Xavier Henry: During the free agent process, I was working hard and when I started to get feedback from teams, we thought (the Lakers) was a good fit for me. When the deal got done, I was excited. There’s not one thing you can say wrong about the Lakers – their history, the players, the coach, they have one of the greats in Kobe (Bryant) that you can learn from every single day. There’s so much with the Lakers to help further yourself and help the team. I’m coming in trying to make a name for myself, and to help the team.
TW: What was your experience like playing at Kansas?
Henry: It was unbelievable playing with the guys we had and under coach Bill Self. It was probably one of the most fun years of my life. For the whole year, I got better and I tried to prove a point that this is my game. It’s funny to look back that I’m not old, but only four years out of college.
*Note: Henry was part of a Jayhawks squad that reeled off a 32-2 record in the regular season before the NCAA tournament (33-3 overall record). He played alongside Thomas Robinson, Cole Aldrich, Tyshawn Taylor, Sherron Collins and the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff), but they were upended in the second round of the tournament by No. 9 Northern Iowa.
TW: Was there a big adjustment period from college to the professional ranks after just one year at Kansas? You went from being a highly-recruited prospect, to a one-and-done at Kansas and then your playing time fluctuates your rookie year.
Henry: What really hurt me was I hurt my knee and basically missed the rest of the season. (Coach Hollins) played me but I wasn’t even healthy and it was hard for me to deal with that going through the rest of the year. It was like I had to start all over. (My rookie year) was going good at first right after I got drafted. I had O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen (ahead of me). They started with Mayo and we weren’t winning much; they started Allen and we still weren’t winning much, so they put me in. I was playing fine as a rookie to get my feet wet. A couple games in, my knee (acted up) and that was it. I didn’t really have anything to say about my rookie season because it went by so fast and I went down. It wasn’t a happy time for me because I was hurt and I had an opportunity in front of me. I tried to play a couple games after I got hurt and I could barely even move, and I knew I had to shut it down. Everybody was good to me. I was always battling back (from injury). I was just trying to get back healthy. If I’m healthy, I know I can play. There’s no denying that.
TW: What did you take away from coach Lionel Hollins and any players who mentored you during your rookie season?
Henry: (In Memphis), coach Hollins was a tough guy, but he also made you realize why he was tough on you. He was there for me when I was hurting. He made sure I was OK and made sure I kept my head focused.”
Note: Henry alluded to Rudy Gay looking out for him while he was injured and constantly checking on him, and Mike Conley as someone who he looked up to. In New Orleans, he mentioned Roger Mason Jr. as being a really good professional, and coach Monty Williams and the rest of the coaching staff working him out and pushing him to be better.
TW: For those people that don’t know you as well, what is your game all about and what can you bring to the table?
Henry: I shoot the ball pretty well, but one thing I’ve always been able to do is get to the line and get fouled. One thing I pride myself on is making sure nobody can stay in front of me when I get to the basket. I’m just trying to show everybody my overall game, play defense and let them know what they can expect what I can bring to the team.