Baylor Preview: More JO needed

USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Henriquez has been rather disappointing this season, but it's not too late for him to make amends.

I don't know about anyone else, but there was a time when I thought Jordan Henriquez could be a legitimate NBA draft pick, maybe even a first-rounder. After all, he certainly had the size and shot-blocking ability, plus persistent rumors of a good shot of which we occasionally saw brief glimpses.

Sadly, that dream is dead, thanks to a rather alarming lack of foot speed and quickness, not much of a shot outside of 10 feet (or at least no confidence in it), terrible hands, and a very serious basketball IQ deficiency. There's a very good chance that comes from a regular IQ deficiency, but that's not really our concern.

Despite all of that, JO at his best is Kansas State's best post player, and it's really not all that close. Thomas Gipson does a phenomenal job of maximizing his abilities, using that big body to push smaller guys around and dominate shorter players, which has made him a more valuable player for Bruce Weber.

On the other hand, JO has been an absolute disaster on offense most of the season. Too often he's pushed too far outside the lane (the increased physicality in college basketball certainly hasn't helped his game) to be effective and even tries to fade away, which you should never do as a 6-11 college basketball player. I really hope that he's embarrassed he hasn't reached double figures in points once this season, after doing it 11 times last season and even 3 times as a sophomore and once as a freshman.

Defensively, at least, Henriquez has played some excellent games as a senior, most notably against Florida (5 blocks) and Kansas (3 blocks) in Manhattan. Few guys have the ability to time a block that he does, if he can just manage to put himself in the right position.

But the simple fact is we need JO to stay out of foul trouble a little better and be more effective on offense, in order to give Bruce Weber a reason to keep him on the floor. I'm not expecting a double-double every night, just that he becomes a serious offensive threat by doing a few simple things.

First of all, and this is tough to gauge, he simply has to play with more fire and intensity. That means more big, authoritative dunks like the one he had in the second half in Lawrence Monday night, and maybe even a little more of an attitude when he's fighting opposing players down low.

It starts there, and that should get him the ball within 5-8 feet of the basket, at which point he really can be deadly. The quick jump hook or even turnaround jumper are strong parts of his game, and I'd love it if we saw a lot more of those and fewer face-up jump shots.

Finally, the most glaring problem should also be the easiest to fix. No basketball player above, say, the varsity high school level should be only shooting 30 percent from the free throw line, and that number has actually gone up from what it was earlier this season.

That's the most puzzling part of his regression this season, and the clearest indicator that it's something in his head. Sure, he was never great from the free throw line, but when you're that AWFUL, it's going to have an effect on how teams defend you and it means you cannot be trusted on the court in crunch time.

JO has always had his ups and downs, so I'm still trying to hold firm to the belief that he can get it together in time for the final month of the season. The Baylor game would be a perfect time to get started, since the Bears are scary to me because of one of the most fearsome inside games in the conference.

Forwards Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson are both averaging better than 12 points per game, though Austin plays on the perimeter a lot for a 7-1 center. These two guys are dangerous inside, and I'm not too convinced Thomas Gipson will be able to stop either one of them by himself.

The good news is Scott Drew is still the coach at Baylor, but the Bears have played well lately, and when they're on their game, they certainly belong in the top 3 of this conference. Rebounding will be crucial, and Kansas State must knock Baylor out of its rhythm to take care of business at Bramlage.

That brings us to Pierre Jackson. He leads the conference in scoring by a wide margin at 18.9 points per game, but a big part of that is that he takes an average of 14 shots.

Jackson also averages a Big 12-best 6.1 assists per game, and lately his distribution has been critical to Baylor's success. Angel Rodriguez has the ability to harass Jackson enough to throw the Baylor offense off track, and that's what he must do. If K-State's guards control the tempo and make some shots, the 'Cats should remain tied for first place even if JO and Big Gip get outplayed by the Baylor bigs.

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