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.
With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.
And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.
Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.
Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.