Aaron Henry was lifting weights Monday morning when Ben Davis (Indianapolis) boys basketball coach Mark James came in.
James asked about Henry’s official visit to Michigan State over the weekend. After hearing the senior wing’s glowing review, he half-jokingly posed a question.
“What are you waiting on?”
Henry thought about it. Michigan State had been a dream school since he started playing for Team Harris, an AAU team sponsored by MSU alumnus and Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris. His visit to East Lansing surpassed his expectations. If he waited, his spot might be filled.
So Henry stepped out and called his dad, the other teams still recruiting him (Butler, Illinois and Ohio State) and Michigan State. Even he didn’t think he would come to a decision that quickly.
East lansinggg what’s goooooood? ✅✅✅ pic.twitter.com/zrxkVPuhUO
— AH🎈 (@henny2x) September 11, 2017
“It came as a surprise to me,” Henry said. “I knew going up here, with this being my dream school, I was going to have a good time. I didn’t expect to have a wonderful time, though. This was by far an 11-out-of-10 experience.”
The trip, Henry’s first to Michigan State, began on Friday. He drove up with his parents and felt a connection as soon as he stepped out of the car. He had dinner with the coaching staff and two players, and knew that he fit right in.
The people ultimately made the difference, and there were a lot of them. He spent time with current players Josh Langford, Miles Bridges, Tum Tum Nairn and Jaren Jackson Jr. Fellow 2018 commits Gabe Brown, Thomas Kithier and Foster Loyer made the trip to East Lansing on Saturday, as did alumni Bryn Forbes and Denzel Valentine.
Harris showed up as well, to tailgate and sit with Henry’s family during the football game against Western Michigan.
“He’s just really paved the way for me, and I can’t thank him enough for it,” Henry said. “It made me a better person, a better player, and he even gave me pointers on my game, what I need to get better at what I need to do in situations. Off the court, he was tremendous as well, one of the best people I’ve met in my life.”
If there was a point when it occurred to Henry that he belongs at Michigan State, it was at an open gym. He played alongside Forbes, Harris and Valentine and said he connected with the players.
“Playing with them, I felt at home,” Henry said. “I really felt at home.”
When he met with the coaches to talk about his future at Michigan State, they showed him film of several players who filled a role similar to what his could be: Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and Harris. He watched Michigan State’s 2005 loss to North Carolina in the Final Four to see just how fast Ager and Brown played.
Coach Tom Izzo told Henry that scoring won’t be an issue, but he needs to show he can be tough, coachable and able to defend at the Big Ten level to earn playing time. A 6-foot-5 wing with a 6-11 wingspan, Henry has the natural gifts and skill set to make him a versatile player on both ends.
He averaged a double-double in the adidas Summer Championships in July. James wants him to average a triple-double as a senior. Henry, who led his team to an Indiana state championship last season, thinks he can do it.
“The big thing I like about him is his length,” James said. “He can guard multiple positions on the floor. He’s a pretty hard-nosed kid who plays with a lot of passion. I think that fits in pretty well to what those guys usually do up there [at Michigan State].”
Despite having never seen the campus before Friday, Henry has long felt a connection with Michigan State. It started on Team Harris. The program’s namesake didn’t just sponsor it — he took a hands-on approach and showed Henry what to expect at his future home.
“It’s just been embedded in me that playing for Michigan State is more than a blessing,” Henry said. “It’s an honor. And getting to wear that across my chest really means something to me.
“I’m just elated right now. Words can’t explain how I feel.”