Kansas State University

K-State's Henriquez battles to become an inside force

Kansas State's Jordan Henriquez shoots during practice at last season's NCAA Tournament.
Kansas State's Jordan Henriquez shoots during practice at last season's NCAA Tournament. The Wichita Eagle

MANHATTAN — Two full seasons of reading scouting reports made Jordan Henriquez realize there is one word no big man in college basketball wants to be associated with: soft.

When the junior forward prepares for games, he perks up when Kansas State coaches tell him he will be matched up with a "soft" player inside.

Last season, avoiding the "soft" label himself helped him blossom late as a shot-blocker and throw down some dunks. Last week, it helped him start strong with a double-double in an exhibition game.

But he hasn't always played with that much energy. So staying aggressive is a priority for Friday's opener against Charleston Southern in Bramlage Coliseum.

"I want them to get the impression that I'm physical, that I'm 7-foot and I've got a 7-6 wingspan," Henriquez said. "I try to block every shot and be as physical as I can. I want people to think that."

It might take a string of strong games for Henriquez to win over doubters. He understands that.

He ate four meals a day and pushed himself in the weight room throughout the offseason to add 10 pounds of muscle. With the departure of Curtis Kelly and the addition of three post players, he strived to become a leader in K-State's frontcourt.

"He's taking pride in representing our team and program," coach Frank Martin said. "He knows it's his turn now, and that's what good players do. They don't sit around and tell everybody how good they are, they do their job every day, and when their number's called they are ready to go.

"We've called his number. Let's see how he reacts to being a frontline player on a consistent basis. I think he'll do well in it, because he's prepared for it."

Where he was hesitant to drive to the basket last season, fall practices have shown a new aggressiveness.

"He's more mature, and he's competing more than he was last year," junior swingman Rodney McGruder said. "He's going after every rebound and trying to block every shot."

Henriquez appreciates the kind words. But he will appreciate them much more when they start coming from opponents.

"I've got to be more physical rather than this soft guy they tend to know me as," Henriquez said. "I'm a whole lot different. I feel a lot stronger, a lot more physical and a lot more aggressive."