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Kicking Marshall Henderson off the team is the worst thing Andy Kennedy can do

Jul 11, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

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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.

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