John Henson's voyage through the 2011 NCAA Tournament is focused on helping Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller win a national championship a year after Henson, as a freshman, missed March Madness entirely. But there's another important target for Henson to keep an eye on, a goal all top recruits work toward every day: the NBA Draft. And Henson, frankly, could use a boost in his stock.
Henson had a rough freshman season at North Carolina, and while he improved dramatically in 2010-11, he still has ground to make up. He's an infrequent scorer (10 points per game) and, even worse, an inefficient one. His value comes on defense (where he's among the nation's very best shotblockers) and on the boards, where he projects to be a very good defensive rebounder and a solid offensive rebounder at the NBA level.
That's simply not enough to warrant a top-5 pick most years, so while Barnes carries the Tar Heel offense into March Madness, NBA scouts will be looking for Henson to supply some confidence in his offensive game. Henson's scoring picked up over the course of the season; he's hit the 10-point mark in each of his last six games, and in 12 of his last 14. But he didn't hit 20 even once this season, and he's just as likely to go 3-10 as 5-8. Against Duke, a team with a few strong big men, Henson went 11-30 this season for 12 points per game.
The NBA will feature plenty of great big men, and if Henson struggles at UNC, he'll struggle in the NBA. But his promise is worth something; unless he wows in the tournament, NBA front offices will have to rely on their own observation and instincts to determine whether that promise is worth a very high pick.
WHO: John Henson, power forward-center, North Carolina. 6'10, 200 pounds.
PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION: Cavs fans! (There's a reason you grabbed the Clippers' first-round pick.)
NBA COMPARISON: Andrew Bynum minus 20 percent width.
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