Blurred Lines

When deciding discipline and, ultimately, the fate of a member of his basketball team, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy has a line.

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Marshall Henderson never crossed that line.

Henderson was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules July 10. A resolution was finally reached earlier this week. Ole Miss announced he would miss the team's season-opener against Troy Nov. 8, as well as the Rebels' first two Southeastern Conference games, Auburn and Mississippi State.

"I trust the people that make those decisions," Kennedy said. "(Ole Miss athletics director) Ross (Bjork) and I had a continual dialogue. Ultimately, it's his decision as it relates to the department.

"I'm the guy that's dealing with Marshall on a day-in and day-out basis. We had a number of conversations. I thought the punishment was fair. I'm just glad we know what it is now so we can move forward."

Really, the punishment could have been worse.

Henderson's suspension, as stated in an official university release on Tuesday, was a result of his total conduct during the 2012-13 season, SEC and NCAA tournaments, and his behavior since the end of the season.

Behavior that included Henderson being stopped on suspicion of speeding May 4. He was found with what appeared to be a small amount of marijuana and cocaine. He was only cited for not having proof of insurance.

"He was charged with lack of proof of insurance. We just deal with the facts. If he was charged with that offense, we'd be having a different conversation," Kennedy said.

Marshall Henderson
USA TODAY images

Kennedy has dealt with indefinite suspensions before. Dundrecous Nelson was kicked off the team in January of 2012 after he was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia by the Oxford Police Department. Jamal Jones was involved in the same incident, but he wasn't charged. Still, he was sent packing.

Jason Carter was dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules before playing a single minute for the Rebels last season.

All similar instances, all ending the same way. Henderson is the outlier. Unlike the others, and different in the way Kennedy handled past incidents, Henderson was afforded the opportunity to earn his way back onto the team.

"All of them were separate in what they had done," Kennedy said. "If Marshall would have done what they had done, then the punishment would have been the same. With Marshall, it had not gotten to that extreme.

"Did we get close to the line? No question. That's why he was put in the situation that he was as it relates to the suspension in July, and that's why he's constantly in a process. There's a process that's continuing. He'll have to undergo that all season."

A number of reports cited multiple failed drug tests as the reasoning behind Henderson's suspension. Nelson, at the time of his dismissal, was leading Ole Miss in scoring. He, too, had failed drug tests at Ole Miss.

The difference between the two, Kennedy said, is more than one was arrested and one wasn't.

"The line was being arrested, but it was also as it relates to our internal policy," he said. "I know there's a lot of speculation about Marshall and failing drug tests. We don't get into any of those details, but if that line is crossed as it relates to the rules as they are written, the penalty would have been the same for him."

Henderson started 33 games in 2012-13, his first season at Ole Miss, and set the NCAA single-season record for 3-point attempts (394), as well as the SEC mark for 3s made in a season with 141. He led the SEC in scoring with 20.1 points per game, and was the catalyst in Ole Miss finishing with a 27-9 record and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.

"I don't know if I've ever suspended a guy indefinitely and then he had the opportunity to come back," Kennedy said. "A lot of times when we get to that final turn in the road and they cross that, then we have to follow course. He's not to that point. If he was, he wouldn't be a part of our team.

Marshall Henderson
File Photo

"He's to the point that obviously he knows that he's used up a lot of his lives as it relates to being a college athlete. I think he understands that. My hope is that he understands that. His actions have shown me by what he's done day-in and day-out that he's starting to get it."

Henderson arrived at Ole Miss a year ago with a checkered past, which included an arrest on forgery charges and a failed drug test in January 2012, requiring Henderson to serve jail time.

He played one season at Utah, where he started 30 games as a true freshman. He earned All-Mountain West honorable mention after finishing second on the team with an average of 11.8 points per game. He led the Utes with 13.6 points during conference play.

Even then, he was making waves for the way he acted. He was suspended one game for his involvement in an altercation at BYU.

He transferred after one season, opting for Texas Tech. He sat out the 2010-11 season, never played a minute, and transferred to South Plains at the end of the season. He earned NJCAA first team All-America honors in leading the Texans to a perfect 36-0 record and junior college national championship.

But he had his troubles there, too, most notably a probation violation.

"It's easy to talk the talk, but he needs to walk the walk," Kennedy said. "That's the challenge."

A challenge that includes controlling himself in the hours he's outside the secure walls of the basketball practice facility and out from under the watchful eye of Kennedy.

"I can control what he does when he's in this building. I try my best to control what he does when he's in those games," Kennedy said. "When he leaves here, our goal is for him to think for himself. We all have to make the right decisions. What he's gone through, my hope is now he understands. He's on a different standard. I've been proud since July."

Henderson is Ole Miss' lone senior. Kennedy is calling for leadership from the beleaguered guard, who has been a full participant in all practices since Ole Miss opened camp last month.

The Rebels host South Carolina-Aiken tonight at 6 p.m. in an exhibition contest.

"I know the guys in that locker room he plays with respect his ability, I know they know his heart and they like him as a teammate and they know he's going to prepare himself and he's going to compete his hardest," Kennedy said. "That, to me, is leadership.

"It's not always just about Marshall like it was in the past. He's taking time out to try to help some of our younger guys. First year in a program, whether it be Marshall or whoever, you're really only concerned with yourself because every day is a new day. You don't really know how to lead. Now the expectation has changed for him. My hope is that he'll grasp that."

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