The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 22nd

M. Basketball: The evolution of Henderson

DURHAM — Mounted within the underbelly of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium rests picture after picture commemorating different aspects of Duke's storied basketball program.

But one photo forces a double take.

Upon a wall is a poster of Gerald Henderson body fully extended in the midst of rejecting a man half a foot taller than him someone he had no business blocking.

In that picture taken last year Henderson's feet are hovering 3 feet off the ground as his hand meets the basketball about a foot above the rim.

At that time he was a player who got by mainly because of his supreme athleticism not necessarily fundamental skills.

But this season Henderson is capable of more than just a momentary burst of power.

This season he's transformed himself into a complete player" one who will lead the No. 6 Blue Devils tonight against North Carolina.

""Right now the guy who's most established is Gerald" coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday.

It's over a month now he's just been pretty solid. Not pretty solid but very" very good.""

Through nine ACC games" it's hard to find an area in which Henderson hasn't improved.

Scoring: He's averaging about three points more per game since opening conference play. Touch: He tops the league in shooting percentage. And defense: He's right up there among the leaders in steals.

Henderson can't pinpoint exactly what's led to his improved play but when probed" he gives as much credit to his teammates as himself.

""Just as a group" we've kind of flowed a little better Henderson said. I think that's helped me. My teammates have looked for me and trusted in me" and I think that has a lot to do with why I'm playing better.""

Henderson's evolution is also reflected in his attitude and composure.

Unlike in years past" there haven't been too many nights when Henderson has let someone take him out of his game.

You can count on one hand the nights when he hasn't adjusted and ended the game with at least four buckets.

He's not afraid to call for the ball early and often. Henderson leads Duke with 123 shot attempts in conference play" knocking down 66 of them.

""Something that I've emphasized is that I can contribute more on offense and get myself more opportunities to score the basketball"" Henderson said.

Earlier in the season I wasn't giving myself the best opportunities to score.""

But now he is" and ACC defenses are getting burned.

What separates Henderson from Duke's other options can be found simply by looking back at that photo.

His explosive athleticism forces defenders to play off him in the half court in fear of getting beaten to the hoop. The extra space gives Henderson room to take uncontested jumpers.

And if he gets hot and the defense tightens" he still has a quick first step to power to the basket for a dunk.

""He's a mismatch"" fellow wingman Jon Scheyer said. No one can match up with him in the country. He makes it a lot easier for me.""

It wasn't always like this. As a freshman" Henderson was relegated to complimentary status. Last year he showed signs of a possible explosion but a broken wrist derailed his development.

His game was inconsistent. One night he'd look like the best player on the court but then he'd struggle for a couple of games. It wasn't until last year's NCAA Tournament when he averaged 19.5 points in two games that he showed signs of what was to come.

So it doesn't surprise Krzyzewski that the junior from Merion Pa." has emerged as a legit stud. He always knew what kind of talent he was dealing with.

""I thought Gerald was going to explode at the end of last season" before he got hurt" Krzyzewski said. I've always believed that Gerald would be a very special player. There's no question about it.""

There's also no question about who'll have the ball when the game's in doubt.

At Wake Forest" he buried a mid-range jump shot for what would have been the game winner. And Saturday against Miami he scored 18 of his 19 points in the second half and overtime.

The Miami performance in particular sums up this year's Gerald Henderson.

Instead of letting a 0-for-6 showing in the first period get him down he persevered. Henderson adjusted his game and went to the hoop" sparking Duke's comeback.

""In the first half against Miami" he was more of a shooter instead of a scorer Krzyzewski said.

In the second half he attacked. He shot" attacked and was on the boards.

""That's who he is"" and we need to give him the freedom to do that.""



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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