Bobcats stay within state
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Gerald Henderson seemed destined to follow the fate of nearly all ex-Duke players who venture to Charlotte with visiting NBA teams.
Thanks to that elbow two years ago that busted Tyler Hansbrough’s nose and produced a bloody mess, the boos for Henderson might have even been louder than the catcalls J.J. Redick now endures in the heart of North Carolina hoops country.
In the span of a week Henderson’s life ó and the Carolina-Duke rivalry ó took an odd twist.
First, Henderson accidentally got bloodied by Hansbrough ó and laughed about it. Then there was the sight Friday of Henderson modeling a No. 15 Bobcats jersey one day after being selected by North Carolina icon Michael Jordan and ex-Tar Heel Larry Brown with the 12th pick in the draft.
Who says it’s best to keep those two shades of blue away from each other?
“It’ll work out fine,” a smiling Henderson said. “I know there are a lot of Carolina fans. This is a Tar Heel state. But I think there will be a few Duke fans as well, and I’ll try to find some friends in the organization that like Duke.”
Good luck with that. It’s not only Jordan, the part-owner, and Brown, the coach, who have North Carolina on their resumes. The departing director of scouting (Buzz Peterson), assistant coaches (Phil Ford, Dave Hanners) and assorted other staffers received their education in Chapel Hill. The point guard (Raymond Felton) and impending free-agent power forward (Sean May) are also Tar Heel products.
Henderson is the first Duke player in the Bobcats’ six seasons.
“We’re real happy with the pick, even though Michael and I had a hard time drafting a Dukie,” Brown joked.
It was the culmination of Henderson’s odd North Carolina-dominated week that began when he was paired with Hansbrough in a pre-draft workout with the Pacers.
Henderson’s elbow in the closing moments of a North Carolina victory in 2007 is another vivid chapter in one of college’s biggest rivalries. Hansbrough had to play much of the rest of the season with a mask ó and Henderson cemented a spot near the top of the villains list for UNC fans.
However, this time in Indiana the roles were reversed.
“I went to the basket and he came over and tried to block my shot,” Henderson said. “He hit me across my face, obviously by accident. A few plays went by and then my nose started gushing. I just started laughing. It was pretty funny.
“Me and Tyler, I wouldn’t say we’re homies, but he’s a great kid. He’s putting his blood out there.”
Three days later Henderson was in Charlotte for a workout in front of Jordan. The Bobcats, in need of a shooting guard to back up Raja Bell, settled on either Henderson or Louisville’s Terrence Williams. When Williams went 11th to New Jersey, the 6-foot-4 Henderson became their man ó alma mater notwithstanding.
“He went to a great program,” Jordan said. “Granted, it’s very tough for us to say Duke is a great program, but we will say that.”
With his father, former NBA player Gerald Henderson Sr., looking on from the front row of Friday’s news conference, Henderson posed for pictures with second-round pick Derrick Brown of Xavier and tried to put the past 24 hours in perspective.
“I know I can help,” Henderson said. “One of the things I talked to Coach Brown with last night was he needs me to be good. They don’t really want to wait on me, and I don’t want to wait on me either. So I’m going to be in the gym every day working to hopefully be a huge part of what’s going on here.”
Even if he’s badly outnumbered when the talk in the locker room or team plane to turns to college basketball. The good news is Henderson may finally get cheered by North Carolina fans who root for the Bobcats.
“It’s the one neat thing about being a pro team in North Carolina, they love basketball,” Brown said. “The fact that Gerald played at Duke, people can follow him here and follow his career. If he helps us win, it doesn’t matter what college jersey he wore.”
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