Former KU Jayhawks guard accepts head-coaching job at Oklahoma City high school

Former Kansas Jayhawks and NBA guard Xavier Henry has been hired as boys head basketball coach at U.S. Grant High in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The school in Henry’s hometown made the announcement this week.

Henry was the No. 8-ranked player nationally in the recruiting class of 2009 out of Putnam City High. He was a one-and-done college player for the Jayhawks during the 2009-10 season.

Henry, 33, was selected No. 12 overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2010 NBA Draft. He averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks, who went 33-3 and won the Big 12 regular-season title and postseason tourney crowns before falling to Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Henry played for Memphis, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers during a five-year NBA career that was plagued by injuries. His last stop as a player was with the G League’s Oklahoma City team in 2017.

He finished his career averaging 5.7 points in 185 NBA games.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to coach the U.S. Grant basketball team,” Henry said. “I’m excited to pass on the knowledge I’ve gained during my playing years to helping these kids excel both on and off the floor. I look forward to teaching them the importance of discipline, faith and the will to persevere.”

Since retiring, Henry has created a training academy for basketball players in the Oklahoma City area, called “X Marks the Shot.” The academy, according to a news release, “focuses on developing players’ shooting skills, agility and basketball IQ through personalized training programs and mentorship from experienced coaches.”

Henry led Putnam City High to back-to-back Class 6A Oklahoma state titles and was a McDonald’s All-American. He takes over a U.S. Grant High team that went 0-20 a year ago.

According to the Oklahoman, the program has not had a winning season in nearly two decades.

Henry was inducted into the Putnam City Athletics Hall of Fame in 2023.

Henry’s brother, C.J. Henry, also played for the Jayhawks in 2009-10. C.J. Henry was a first-round pick in the 2005 MLB Draft pick who returned to college after playing three years of minor-league baseball in the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies organizations.

The Henry family’s ties to Lawrence run even deeper than that, though: The parents of Xavier and C.J. Henry — Carl Henry and Barbara Adkins — both played basketball at KU.

As for Xavier’s pro career, he missed half of his rookie season in 2010 because of a knee injury.

“He’s definitely a high-character guy,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said in 2010. “He tries to do the right thing all the time. I know he is a very Christian kid and has a strong faith.”

Mike Conley, the Grizzlies’ starting point guard in 2010, said Henry “keeps that same smile on his face. He is always ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ to the coaches. I think that shows a lot of character and maturity for a young guy.”

Henry, a starter in his one season at KU, shed tears at a news conference, held after the Jayhawks’ 2009-10 season, in which he announced he was headed to the NBA.

“I didn’t know I’d love it here this much at KU. All the people here, they really made it a place for me to love,” Henry said then.

“How big KU is in basketball … the relationships you can build in just one year that you have to give up … playing in this building (Allen Fieldhouse) … there’s nothing like it. I love what my coaches did for me and my teammates and the fans. Everybody who supported KU made it real worthwhile for me to come play here.”

Henry added that “people that know me well knew it’d be a tough decision (to leave for pros) because they know I love people and they know once I start bonding with people it’s real hard for me to let go. Coach (Bill) Self prepared me as well as he can. He kept me confident throughout the whole season, even when I went through slumps and he got my mindset ready to play with anybody. I’m confident going in (NBA) and I want to go in there and I want to kill it.”

At the time, Self said: “I told X this, if my son would grow up and be like him from a spirit standpoint and a heart standpoint, then my wife and I would be ecstatic because he has about as good a spirit and as good a heart as any kid I’ve ever coached.

“I’d put four years in recruiting Xavier if we could get him (again) because I know what kind of kid he is. I don’t think you can build a program on one-and-done guys because the turnover would be too great. I do think recruiting a guy like him … we wouldn’t have been 33-3 this year if he hadn’t come to Kansas. He was very good to us.”

Henry said: “I understand the world is not all about me. I want to lead people to Christ, do the best I can and make life worthwhile. Life is about other things. It’s helping people out and being a servant to everybody else.”