Do you know the name Pierre Henderson-Niles?
Unless you’re a Memphis Tiger fan, I doubt it. Henderson-Niles was a three-star local recruit that played — quite sparingly — for the Tigers under John Calipari for three seasons before Josh Pastner took over the program. Henderson-Niles played for less than a full season with Pastner running the show, leaving the team with eight games left in the regular season.
Henderson-Niles averaged 5.2 points as a senior and 2.4 points in his final season being coached by Cal. If it wasn’t for the fact that he slapped a UAB fan, a memorable image that was caught on camera, when Memphis was still a member of Conference USA, his tenure with Memphis would have been totally forgettable.
So why am I talking about him today?
Because a man name Stephen Saine is claiming that Coach Cal and then-assistant Derek Kellogg had a pay-for-play system in place for Henderson-Niles. Saine, who is Henderson-Niles’ uncle, even sent a letter to the NCAA making the allegations.
Here’s the background: Saine became Henderson-Niles’ guardian when the young boy’s mother, Saine’s sister, was unable to care for him. Saine did time for selling drugs but has since been released from prison and claims to have turned his life around. He’s become a pastor and has written an autobiography that he is claiming to be shopping around to publishers.
I’ll be honest: I’m cynical enough about college sports to fully believe that even a player of Henderson-Niles’ ability got paid to stay and play for his hometown school, and, quite frankly, it has nothing to do with the fact that John Calipari was his coach. That’s just the way that it works at that level. But keep in mind that these accusations are coming from an uncle of the player that is a convicted drug dealer currently trying to sell a book, and that both Josh Pastner and Henderson-Niles himself have denied the claims.
I’ve reached out to both Kentucky and Memphis for comment. I’ll update when I hear back.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.