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Kicking Marshall Henderson off the team is the worst thing Andy Kennedy can do

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Last Monday, after having a chance to sit down and talk with Marshall Henderson at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy, I wrote about how the SEC’s leading scorer and the most polarizing player in the country had reached a crossroads in his career.

Turns out I was off by about 10 days.

Henderson has been suspended indefinitely by Ole Miss for a violation of team rules, that is reportedly either a failed drug test or multiple failed drugs tests, neither of which is a good thing for a kid that was arrested and put on probation for trying to buy $800 worth of weed with counterfeit money and who subsequently violated his probation by testing positive for cocaine, weed and alcohol.

According to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, this is not an ordinary offseason suspension; Henderson’s status with the team is genuinely up in the air, with Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com adding that Henderson can return from the suspension, which had been coming for a while, if he can meet certain conditions. Rehab is a possibility.

So yeah, I was wrong last week.

As of Wednesday, Henderson’s career has officially pulled up to those crossroads.

I’m not going to rewrite this column again. The point is the same. The are two directions that Henderson can go from here. He can clean up his act — and, depending on how serious his issues with drugs and alcohol are, get himself clean, but I’ll get to that in a second — and become the senior leader for a team that won 27 games last year.

Or, he can keep doing what he’s been doing. Boozing with fans before he’s been eliminated from the NCAA tournament. Celebrating a holiday he’s dubbed “White Girl Wednesday”, which takes on a whole different meaning depending on what he tested positive for. Living out every frat boy’s fantasy of being the best player and the biggest partier for a school in the SEC.

I ended that column by saying that this is Henderson’s choice to make, but I don’t believe that to be the case anymore.

This is now Andy Kennedy’s choice to make, and I think to decision is simple.

He can’t kick Henderson off the team.

Not yet, anyway.

And there are two reasons why:

  • Kennedy took a risk bring Henderson into his program, but it was a risk he had to take. Prior to Henderson’s arrival, Kennedy at been at the helm of the Rebels for six seasons without a trip to the NCAA tournament. He was on the hot seat, and one more trip to the NIT could have cost him his job. To make matters worse, both Dundrecous Nelson and Jelan Kendrick, the guys that were supposed to be the back court of the future for Ole Miss, misbehaved their way out of the program before the 2011-2012 season had finished. Kennedy needed some scoring pop in his back court: enter Henderson, a kid as talented as he is troubled. Henderson averaged 20.1 points as a junior and led Ole Miss to the Round of 32. Kennedy made himself millions in guaranteed money in the process, as his contract was extended through 2017. That doesn’t happen without Henderson. It wouldn’t be right to bail on him now
  • … not at the time when he needs the most help. And that’s the point that needs to be driven home here. What will Henderson have left if he loses basketball? He’s certainly not going to be making an NBA roster. Will a European team bother wasting money on him? Would he even survive in those leagues? Greek fans throw firecrackers and flares at players during the games. What do you think they would do if Henderson started popping his jersey at them? I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be suspended. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have to earn his way back onto the team. But if the kid parties as hard as he does when he knows he has workouts and training and practice and games the next day, what happens to him when he has nothing to work towards?

I don’t know if Henderson is actually an addict. I don’t know if he actually has a drinking problem. For all any of us know, Henderson is just a kid that doesn’t like being told what he can and cannot do, particularly when it comes to partying.

But whatever the case is, Henderson is on the verge of tossing away his future in basketball.

He’s a kid that needs help making a change, whether that change is helping to kick an addiction or simply educating on proper decision-making skills.

Only this time, it’s not Henderson’s choice to make.

Kennedy needs to choose for him.

And there’s only one choice he can make.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

No. 25 Wichita State pounds Drake 74-48

Gregg Marshall
AP Photo/AJ Mast
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Ron Baker and Shaq Morris had 11 points each and No. 25 Wichita State pounded Drake 74-48 on Tuesday night for its 13th win in 14 games.

Thirteen players scored for the Shockers (18-5, 12-1 Missouri Valley Conference), who moved within two victories of clinching at least a share of its third straight league title.

Wichita State had little trouble with the Valley’s worst team, rattling off a 27-5 run to close the first half in beating the Bulldogs for the ninth straight time.

Reed Timmer scored 20 points for Drake (6-19, 1-12), which lost for the 15th time in 17 games.

Wichita State was coming off just its second Valley loss in three seasons, as it fell at Illinois State 58-53.

The woeful Bulldogs didn’t stand a chance against a Shockers team seeking a measure of redemption.

Drake hung in for a few minutes, even closing within 17-16 at one point midway through the first half. But the Shockers tightened up their defense and spread the ball around, getting baskets from nine players in the first half to pull away from the overwhelmed Bulldogs.

Wichita State went 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening half, while Drake went 1 of 16 from the field and failed to score in the final 5:23 before halftime.

Fred VanVleet’s wide-open 3 with 17 minutes left made it 50-25.

The Shockers held Drake to 25 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers.

TIP-INS

WICHITA STATE: The Shockers were the eighth team in this week’s Top 25 to play a road game in Iowa – and that doesn’t include the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes or 14th-ranked Iowa State. … Early in the second half, the 6-foot VanVleet was alone in the paint to defend a 3-on-1 break. VanVleet forced a jump ball.

DRAKE: Timmer twice tricked opponents into fouling him on a 3-point attempt. He converted all six free throws. … Dominik Olejniczak, a freshman from Poland, had nine points in his second career start.

UP NEXT

Wichita State hosts Northern Iowa on Saturday.

Drake plays at Southern Illinois on Saturday.