Commentary

Henry among top recruits on display at Hoophall Classic

Updated: January 19, 2009, 8:24 PM ET
By Brendan Murphy | ESPN.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- As heroic as it would have been for him to guide his team to victory in his first major test of the season, the nation's top recruit -- Putnam City's (Oklahoma City) Xavier Henry -- showed that he is still working off the rust from an absence that kept him from making his season debut until this month.

During the first half of Monday's game against ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 22 St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) at the Hoophall Classic, the Memphis-bound guard struggled. He was hounded by the Friars' ever-changing defensive looks and went into the locker room for halftime with four points on 1-of-8 shooting. Still, it takes a lot more than a slow start to shake the psyche of the No. 1 recruit in the ESPNU 100.

Henry responded to his early struggles with poise and precision. The 6-foot-6 scoring guard tallied 20 points -- most of which came from the free throw line, where he was 10-for-13 -- in the second half to help his team stay in the game against national powerhouse St. Anthony. Despite Henry's second-half rebound, the Pirates eventually fell 58-50.

"I kept confidence and kept shooting," Henry said.

There was some concern that Henry would not take the floor Monday; he suffered a foot injury in the days leading up to the Pirates' trip to Springfield. The foot malady came almost immediately following Henry's return from a fractured cheek suffered in a car accident in October.

[+] EnlargeXavier Henry
Doug Steinbock for ESPN.comXavier Henry kept Putnam City in the game against St. Anthony's.

Henry said he's not deterred by his run of rough luck.

"This is life, I just need to do what I have to do and get through it," he said. "Every game, I am taking it one by one and trying to get back in shape and do the things I need to do."

The matchup with St. Anthony was billed as a showdown between two of the nation's top 2-guards. Friars standout Dominic Cheek also didn't have one of his finer performances. Cheek, who is the No. 15 player in the Class of 2009 and is bound for Villanova, had five points and seven rebounds for St. Anthony. The Friars were led by junior Devon Collier, who posted 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Buzzsaw in the making
No. 3 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) kept its perfect record intact with a 77-67 win over Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) during Monday's second game.

Count St. Benedict's coach Danny Hurley among those who are surprised by the Grey Bees' fast start to the season.

Benedict's two top interior players from the 2007-08 team -- Samardo Samuels (Louisville) and Gregory Echenique (Rutgers) -- graduated and were replaced with underclassmen. The Grey Bees, however, didn't lose their swagger.

"We lost two starters and replaced them with sophomores and juniors," Hurley said. "The returning guys know how to win and that's a cultural thing."

The emergence of nationally ranked junior Tristan Thompson and sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo has been key for the Gray Bees, and their depth extends well beyond those two. On Monday, Rice-bound guard Tamir Jackson (17 points), Pitt recruit Lamar Patterson (19 points and 13 rebounds) and Thompson (20 and 13) all reached double figures.

The fact Monday's effort might have Patterson's strongest of the season suggests the Gray Bees have yet to reach their potential.

"Lamar came to St. Benedict's to get himself prepared for Pitt," Hurley said. "Today he looked like a Big East recruit."

Cousins looking toward the Music City
Memphis coach John Calipari attended the Putnam City-St. Anthony game to watch Xavier Henry, the crown jewel of the Tigers' 2009 recruiting class. But if Calipari has his way, Henry won't be the only blue-chipper in the Hoophall Classic's slate of games heading to the Music City. LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.) standout DeMarcus Cousins -- along with John Wall -- are two prospects said to be on Cal's wish list.

[+] EnlargeDemarcus Cousins and James Pagett
Doug Steinbock for ESPN.comDeMarcus Cousins may follow Henry to Memphis.

Cousins' interior play -- he totaled 17 points and 20 rebounds -- was the difference in LeFlore's 67-54 win over Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Lance Stephenson.

Formerly a UAB commit, Cousins said he is no longer considering the Blazers and has moved Memphis to the top of his list of suitors.

"As of right now, me and Memphis have the best relationship," Cousins said.

Henry might be Calipari's best recruiter.

"We talk every day," Cousins said. "It would be an honor to play with him."

Tall on talent
Most college teams don't boast the kind of size that FAB 50 No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) has. The Monarchs go Andy Brown (6-8), David Wear (6-11), and Travis Wear (6-11) up front.

That frontcourt was too much to handle for an undersized Young (Chicago) squad. The Dolphins hung with the Monarchs for most of the first two quarters, trailing by six at the half. A dominant third quarter for Mater Dei's bigs -- Brown and the Wears combined for 24 points -- helped No. 1 Mater Dei put the game away.

Young's guard-orientated attack was led by Chris Colvin, who had 18 points in the 86-61 loss. Travis Wear led all scorers with 24.

Brendan Murphy is an associate editor of recruiting for ESPN.com.