Freshman Aaron Henry on playing No. 1 Kansas: I just wasn't afraid
Tuesday night's 92-87 Champions Classic loss to No. 1 Kansas was quite the learning experience for coach Tom Izzo and his squad.
"We had to put some freshman in there that weren’t ready to play," Izzo said after his team's loss Tuesday night. "I did get some things out of (it)."
Not much playing time was given to the freshmen, except for guard Aaron Henry who played 14 minutes in front of his friends and family in his hometown of Indianapolis.
"It was really important to me that I got to play in front of my family," Henry said. "My first game, my family's there, my AAU coach's there. So many loved ones were in attendance there and it was good to see all those faces in the crowd."
Henry's 14 minutes of court time was the same amount he received in his exhibition appearance against Northern Michigan on Oct. 30, in which he put up six points and four rebounds.
"I just wasn't afraid," Henry said on his play Tuesday night. "I mean, I know I can play at that level. I can play at any level that's possible."
His first basket of his collegiate career came in the form of an emphatic dunk, in which he ran around 6-foot-9 forward Dedric Lawson and threw it down over guard Quentin Grimes.
"I'm dunking on anybody down there," Henry said. "If you're going to jump, I mean, good luck to you."
Shortly thereafter, Henry made another impressive play, working cross court to lay it up over 6-foot-5 guard Lagerald Vick for his second basket of the night.
Overall, Henry handled himself fairly well against the top team in the nation Tuesday night, going 2-for-4 from the floor with three rebounds and a steal. Part of that success on the court for Henry comes from a relentless mentality that's been drilled into his head over the years.
"It's just been drilled in me forever, not to stoop down … never lower your play just because people are supposed to be better than you," Henry said. "Meet their play, be better than what you were before, and I just felt like I took that approach."
Izzo has commended Henry's ability as a slasher - someone who can get to the net, work inside and stretch out opponents' defenses using quickness and athleticism.
"We think Aaron is going to be a great guy at slashing, getting to the hoop, something we haven't had in a while," Izzo said Thursday after his team's practice. "I think he's going to be very good at it, and we're going to constantly push him."
Though Henry has seen some success on the court basically upon his arrival in East Lansing, he admits he has plenty of room to grow. However, with the minutes he's being gifted, he should have plenty of chances to take in wisdom that can translate into strong play down the line.
"Just take something new (from) every game … and hope to pick something up from someone I'm guarding or somebody I might see," Henry said.