Henderson Returns From Tobacco Road

Gerald Henderson Jr. did something that most kids dream about last night - caught a double-header at Duke and North Carolina. His seats weren't half-bad, either.

It's not a bad night when you can pull a Duke-North Carolina doubleheader. First, Gerald Henderson Jr. took in Duke's easy win against Miami at 7 p.m. on Thursday night – and then he bolted at halftime for the trip down Tobacco Road just in time to catch the start of North Carolina's hard-fought win against Florida State.

``It was pretty cool," the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Henderson Jr. said. "We had good seats at both games. Just being able to go to both games was a lot of fun. I hadn't seen either team play in person."

Henderson, who made the trip with his father, former NBA player Gerald Henderson, and Episcopal (Pa.) teammate Wayne Ellington and his father, has become one of the elite players in a loaded Class of 2006.

It almost didn't happen.

Henderson was an exceptional golfer as a teen-ager, advancing to the junior world championships and playing on Tiger Woods' national team.

Henderson was talented enough that he even contemplated driving balls at the next level instead of shooting them.

``He told me golf was too hard," the elder Henderson said. "Plus, you can't do both."

``It came to a point where I had to pick one or the other and I was more passionate about basketball," Henderson Jr. said. "I don't regret my decision at all."

Nor should he. The ultra-athletic Henderson has become one of the most sought-after players in the junior class. He's taken unofficial visits to Duke, North Carolina and has seen numerous Villanova games this season. Wake Forest, N.C. State and Pittsburgh are also in the mix.

Henderson has a nice mid-range game, is explosive and has improved his ballhandling and outside shooting – two of his admitted weaknesses – during his junior campaign.

He'll once again suit up for the Playaz Basketball Club this spring and summer, although he won't be the fixture on the circuit like many of the other big-name guys.

``We're going to try and extend his range," Henderson Sr. said. "He'll be working with people this summer and doing a lot of skill work. He won't be playing in as many AAU events."

``I've got to get better," Henderson Jr. added. "I know what I've got to work on. I need to work on my skills instead of playing all summer. Working out in the gym will really benefit me."

Henderson just concluded a season in which he and Ellington led Episcopal to a 24-3 record, including a perfect 10-0 mark in conference play. The setbacks came to Arlington Country Day (Fla.), Montrose Christian (Md.) and St. Joseph's (N.J.). Since Henderson attends a private school, there are no state playoffs.

Now Henderson will focus on getting better.

``I need to be more consistent shooting the ball," he said. "I have to be in a power position every time I catch the ball so that I can be a nuisance to the defender. I need to be in a triple-threat position."

While he continues to work on his game, Henderson, with the help of his family, will continue to try and figure out the best place for him to play college ball. Last night was definitely a help in the overall process.

``It was a blast last night," Henderson Sr. said. "It's good to go to the games and get a feel for each place in the huddle, pre-game and after the game. You're going to give your kid to someone for a few years, so you want to make sure you're comfortable."

``Right now it's hard to think about where I want to go," the younger Henderson added. "I feel like I'm not ready to make a decision at all. Later in the process I'll have a better idea."

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