Jordan Henriquez spent four years at Kansas State trying to prove himself as a future professional basketball player. Every point he scored, every rebound he snared and every shot he blocked moved him closer to a life in which someone pays him to play the sport he loves.
Funny how once he got to the pros, he missed college.
“Over the last year, I realized how spoiled I was in college,” Henriquez said in a phone interview. “Instead of flying to away games on a chartered flight, you’re taking two or three commercial flights and a bus ride. It was a lot different. I did a good job racking up my air miles, though.”
Those could come in handy over the next few months while Henriquez takes the next step in his professional basketball career. The former K-State big man just wrapped up his rookie season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA’s Developmental League. He describes the year as “an up-and-down journey.” The ups included helping his team reach the playoffs and earning all-rookie honors as a third-team selection. The downs featured inconsistent playing time and little individual production. He averaged three points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks while playing nine minutes a game.
The 7-foot forward wanted more, but he also played for a coach that ran an up-tempo offense and liked to spread the floor with small lineups. Henriquez, adjusting to the faster pace and demanding style of the D-League, was never a candidate to start. Still, he thinks it’s a good beginning.
“It was an honor to hear my name called,” Henriquez said. “I was a little shocked, but I always like surprises. I want to live up to that and I hope it looks good on my resume.”
From here, Henriquez is exploring his options like any other recent college graduate. He enjoyed his first job, and says he is open to a return to the D-League for the right salary, but he would prefer a higher-paying gig overseas.
He is living in New York, enjoying downtime in his hometown. His next scheduled basketball event is The Basketball Tournament, a $500,000 winner-take-all competition that features 32 teams. But he is also searching for an open roster spot on foreign soil until the NBA’s summer league begins. That’s where he made a name for himself last year with the Houston Rockets, parlaying a successful summer run into a spot at the team’s preseason camp.
The Rockets released him before their first preseason game, but he quickly landed with a developmental team.
That experience could help him land a better contract this time around.
“I know more about the pro game now,” Henriquez said. “It was a whole lot different and a whole lot quicker. You have to be one step quicker than everybody else, because the game is so fast. That is the main thing I learned. You can’t sit in the paint like you could in college. If I build on that, my size will help me be a factor for my next team.”
Henriquez also keeps a close eye on his former team. He watched as many K-State games as he could last season and attended the Kansas game at Bramlage Coliseum. He was proud of what the Wildcats accomplished and thinks they will be even better next year with the additions of transfers Justin Edwards and Brandon Bolden. He hopes to return to Manhattan and train with the team at some point this summer.
He should have enough frequent-flier miles to make the trip.
“I love Manhattan and will be there soon,” Henriquez said. “After that, I am going to try for the NBA again. That is still my dream. I believe anything can happen if I work toward it. But I also wouldn’t mind trying to play overseas. If that is the next opportunity for me, I want to take it.”