On the surface, Xavier Henry's decision to play basketball at Kansas would appear to be encouraging news for Maryland fans holding out hope that the Terrapins still can land Lance Stephenson, another top prospect in the Class of 2009.
The common perception was that Henry's decision would help decide the fate of both he and Stephenson. Both players were pursued by Kansas. Maryland and St. John's also were in the hunt for Stephenson.
Kansas, though, preferred Henry over Stephenson, and it was thought that if the Jayhawks nabbed Henry, their interest in Stephenson would evaporate immediately. After all, Henry's commitment consumed the final of Kansas's 13 scholarships, the limit under NCAA rules.
Theoretically, that would leave Stephenson with a choice of two schools: Maryland or St. John's. However, sources continue to say that the Terrapins are not a possibility and that another school could jump into the picture at the last minute.
Lance Stephenson Sr. told the Post in February that he wanted his son to get out of the New York area to play college ball. He made similar comments to other news outlets at other points throughout his son's recruitment. This would seem to indicate St. John's was not a preferred option of the Stephensons.
The recruit and his parents visited College Park in late January, and Maryland's coaching staff has remained in regular contact with the Stephensons ever since. As recently as April 17, Maryland Coach Gary Williams traveled to Brooklyn to visit Stephenson at his family's Coney Island residence.
Stephenson was supposed to announce his college decision in Miami on March 31, the day before he was to play in the McDonald's High School All-American game. Stephenson had said in the weeks leading up to that date that his final three choices were Kansas, Maryland and St. John's, and it was widely believed he would choose to play for the Jayhawks. But Stephenson demurred, at least in part because of the circumstances surrounding Henry's recruitment.
On March 27, Kentucky fired Billy Gillispie, and Memphis Coach John Calipari immediately became the leading candidate to take over in Lexington. Henry, who originally committed to Memphis, said on the same day Stephenson was to announce his decision that he would request a release from his commitment if Calipari left for Kentucky. The following day, Calipari agreed to become Kentucky's next coach, and Henry asked for his release.
This led to a three-week waiting game. Henry pondered his options -- which included following Calipari to Kentucky and remaining at Memphis under new coach Josh Pastner, in addition to heading to Kansas, where both his parents played college ball -- while Stephenson was put on hold. If Henry chose Kentucky or Memphis, it was thought Kansas would snatch up Stephenson.
Making matters more complex was that Henry desired to play alongside his older brother, C.J., who sat out last season at Memphis with a medical hardship after breaking his leg. The issue was whether C.J. would be able to play immediately for a new school after spending a year at Memphis. He will need an NCAA waiver to do so.
But as part of Xavier's announcement this morning, C.J. also declared he would come to Lawrence and play for the Jayhawks. C.J. will come to Kansas as a walk-on because he spent three years playing professional baseball in the New York Yankees organization, which prevents him from receiving a scholarship under NCAA rules. As part of C.J.'s contract with the Yankees, the franchise will pay for his education.
Now that Xavier Henry has made his decision, Stephenson should announce his quickly, possibly as soon as Friday. While it does not seem likely that choice will be Maryland, Terrapins fans can continue to hold out hope a little longer.
After all, the Terps' chances improved today, even if by default.
April 23, 2009; 3:19 PM ET
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