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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.