Damon Stoudamire

There was a time when Xavier Henry was a top-10 recruit before starring at Kansas. The Memphis Grizzlies then made him the 12th overall selection in the 2010 NBA draft after just one season in the college ranks.

That was about the last time anything really significant happened for Henry, who was traded to the New Orleans Hornets in 2012. Just 22 years old with three years of minimal NBA experience and a trip to the D-League, he is almost a forgotten man already.

On the Memphis bench for Henry's rookie season was new Arizona assistant Damon Stoudamire, and it was then the ex-standout point guard realized that he preferred the allure of coaching college players over professionals.

As Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson told GOAZCATS.com earlier this month, Stoudamire did not want to deal with NBA players who think they already know everything.

Tracy McDannald/GOAZCATS.com

Damon Stoudamire was out on the recruiting trail for Memphis in April. His next AAU event will be as an Arizona assistant.

Stoudamire said that while Henry had the tools to work with and came from a good family, those are not enough to generate NBA success and meet expectations that come with being a lottery pick. With a roster chock full of young talent and one-and-done pieces, such as former Ohio State point guard Mike Conley, the Grizzlies were incorporating fundamental three-man weave drills into practice that professionals should already know.

"We just kind of threw (Henry) out there, and he was going through things," Stoudamire said. "He's a great kid … but that's not enough to make it in the NBA. You're going to play with a lot of different personalities.

"No matter what he thought, he wasn't ready. He wasn't ready for the NBA - on the floor or off the floor."

Stoudamire saw a calling, an area he could help as a coach on the collegiate level.

After interviewing with someone he would only describe as a "very prominent coach," Stoudamire was asked why he wanted to get into coaching. Was it the money? Was he broke?

Stoudamire understood the line of questioning, but explained that it wasn't something he just spontaneously felt like doing. He had a plan, and it was during Stoudamire's final two years in the NBA when he would start to attend AAU tournaments and pick the brain of college coaches - some of which once recruited him, including Olson.

Stoudamire said he didn't fully comprehend the demands of the job until he got his start coaching in the college ranks at Memphis with Josh Pastner. There was no turning off his phone and very few of the free days he once enjoyed as a player. There also was the task of getting familiar with zone defenses once again, in addition to the NCAA rulebook.

"The rules have changed since I was in college," said Stoudamire, who starred at Arizona for four years in the early-to-mid-1990s.

For those reasons, Stoudamire said, there are not too many high-profile NBA players seeking jobs on the college level. Simply put, there is too much hard work involved.

"It's so different, and I don't think that guys really want to work that hard because it is a 24/7 job," said Stoudamire, a 13-year NBA veteran and 1996 Rookie of the Year recipient.

"I wanted to give back to kids. This game has been good to me, so I figured…I could give back some of the knowledge that I got from all the great coaches and mentors that I had along the way."

At the NBA level, it was too late for Stoudamire to make the impact he desired. Stoudamire does not want to see any more Xavier Henrys leave college without the proper guidance and coaching.

He's tired of seeing promising talents not succeed because of an ill-advised decision that keeps them from realizing their potential. Stoudamire said he wants to tell college players "the truths about what's really going on."

"We, as pro coaches, sometimes, we used to condemn the college coach and say, 'Well, they're not getting them ready," Stoudamire recalled. "But the reality of it is, is that even if you're using your time wisely, a kid still might not be ready when he leaves school.

"So you just have to prepare and help them out as much as possible and hope that they have that inner drive to workout when nobody's looking."

(Tracy McDannald is the senior editor for GOAZCATS.com. Get all your Wildcats' news at www.goazcats.com.)

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