Henderson's departure would be costly for Duke
Posted April 20, 2009
Gerald Henderson's has reportedly decided to enter his name in the 2009 NBA Draft, a decision that will have an impact on not only his basketball future, but the near future of Duke's program as well.
Henderson's ascent from average player with loads of potential, to first team All-ACC, was lightning fast.
By the end of the 2009 season, the 6-foot-4 guard/forward was being talked about almost as much for his defense and mid-range jump shot as his highlight reel dunks, a sign of his maturity as an all-around player. As his game rose to a different level, so did his spot on the various NBA mock drafts - he now sits at number eight according to collegehoops.net and nbadraft.net.
The emergence of an athletic scorer from the wing was something Duke was waiting for since the departure of Luol Deng. Averaging 16.5 points and just under five rebounds per game last year, the former McDonald's All-American was one of the few players, other than Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer, that opponents had to focus on when Duke had the ball.
Had Henderson returned, the Blue Devils would have welcomed back all five starters from a team that made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. A core of Singler, Scheyer and Henderson, along with the assumed improvement of guards Nolan Smith and Eliot Williams and the arrival of highly touted recruits Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, would have likely positioned Duke as the favorite in the ACC and put it on the inside track to be one of the four teams in Indianapolis next year for the Final Four.
If he is indeed gone, Duke will need more of an immediate impact from Kelly and Plumlee just to win the conference.
Can the Blue Devils make the Final Four without their most dynamic scorer? Yes, they can - but the odds just got a lot longer.
Last season, North Carolina saw Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green return to school after testing the NBA waters, and Tyler Hansbrough completely disregard the process altogether.
Less than a year later, the Tar Heels were cutting down the nets in Detroit as the 2009 national champions.
Some saw Duke as being this year's Carolina - a team that had players that could go to the league (Singler and Henderson), only to return to campus to win a ring.
It appears that Singler is coming back to Durham for his third season, but without Henderson by his side, Duke's hope of answering their arch rivals' title with one of their own takes a huge hit.