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.

LaVar Ball having ‘zero’ interaction with UCLA team bodes well for next season

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With the NBA Draft looming in less than a month, the biggest talking point has been just how much of an impact LaVar Ball is going to have on his son, Lonzo’s, NBA career.

It’s a question worth asking given the, ahem, outspoken nature of the eldest Ball.

But in the collegiate ranks, that’s a question that’s been asked about UCLA regarding next season. While Lonzo and LaMelo, who is finishing up his sophomore season in high school, are the stars that get the majority of the attention, there is another Ball brother that will be enrolling at UCLA next season: LiAngelo.

LaVar has already said that he expect Gelo to be a one-and-done player, which may not jibe with how good Gelo actually is. He’s not Lonzo and he’s not LaMelo. He’s not a dynamic athlete or a lead guard. He’s a 6-foot-5, 200 pound shooter with limitless range but limited upside. There’s a reason Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect.

What’s going to happen when UCLA, a top 15 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, doesn’t give Gelo Lonzo-esque minutes or shots next season? How will LaVar handle it if his second son is coming off the bench for the Bruins?

Steve Alford doesn’t seem concerned about it, telling a reporter from the LA Times that LaVar was “never at practice, never called me” and was around the team “zero.”

“I think all parents probably should know that moving on to the collegiate level anyway,” Alford said. “It’s not high school, it’s not AAU. Your son’s on scholarship; your son’s at UCLA getting an incredible opportunity academically and athletically.

“Playing time, shots, that kind of stuff — we don’t entertain some of those phone calls anyway. I never had any issues at all with LaVar.”

It will be interesting to see if that continues next season.

The Bruins have a chance to be pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as last season, maybe not a Pac-12 title favorite or even the best team in LA — USC is loaded — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them end up as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh returning and Jaylen Hands headlining the recruiting class.

Will LaVar be able to handle UCLA’s success if it comes at the expense of his son’s?

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

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The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.