NCAA BK

Herren offers counsel to Henderson

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Sam Gardner

Sam Gardner is a general assignment writer for FOXSports.com. Originally from Orlando, Fla., he previously covered the Orlando Magic for FOX Sports Florida and has also covered the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs. Follow him on Twitter.

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The University of Mississippi suspended controversial guard Marshall Henderson indefinitely Wednesday, citing a “violation of team rules” that was reportedly linked to a failed drug test.

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It was the latest in a string of on- and off-the-court incidents, several of them related to his his drug use, and it reportedly puts his future with the program in the jeopardy -- this coming after previous stops at Utah, Texas Tech and South Plains College.

Chris Herren knows a thing or two about the trouble Henderson is going through. Herren was a top prep basketball prospect coming out of Fall River, Mass., before drug addiction ruined his career, following him from Boston College to Fresno State to the NBA, and eventually, to the streets.

Herren has been sober nearly five years, and his story has motivated countless others facing similar situations to his own. So it came as little surprise that Henderson tweeted Thursday that he had spoken with Herren about his current crossroads:

Herren spoke with FOX Sports about his conversation with Henderson, and said that he sees some of himself in the troubled guard. Herren said he had connected with Henderson a couple months ago, and after texting with him Wednesday night after the news of Henderson’s suspension was revealed, the two spoke on the phone Thursday.

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“It was a great conversation,” Herren said. “Any time anyone puts themselves out there, it’s a plus. He is a young kid trying to navigate through a storm, not only in his life, but in the public life. So I have great empathy for his situation. It’s not easy for any human being to acknowledge problems, nevermind in the public.”

Herren said he sees bits of himself in Henderson, who has immense talent that is often overshadowed by his antics.

“Yeah, of course, 100 percent,” Herren said. “It’s hard being sober 24-7 -- nevermind staying sober 24-7 on a college campus. And it’s a lot to ask of somebody who has these issues. Is it impossible? Absolutely not. But he can’t do it alone, and he needs people around him to help him do that, just like I did at 32, after I chose not to at 22.”

There’s also a misconception about Henderson’s personality, Herren says, based on the persona he’s become so famous for in the heat of competition.

“When people think of Marshall, they talk about his brash nature on the court, his antics to the crowd,” Herren said. “Nobody talks about what the crowd is saying to Marshall. Everybody kind of focuses on his part, but nobody’s focusing in on what the crowd is chanting or what that student section is screaming at him the whole time. I think anybody would respond that way, especially at his age.”

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Herren’s life got back on track after post-NBA stops in Italy, Turkey, China, Poland and Iran when he began to associate with better people who were concerned with his livelihood. Finding those people is a priority if recovery is truly the goal, and that’s a message Herren said he tried to impress upon Henderson during their talk.

“He needs to surround himself with people who are interested in his well-being and have the same goals as him,” Herren said. “He needs to come first right now -- not basketball, not friends. Marshall needs to take care of Marshall and everything else will fall into place.

“That kid didn’t become who he is today by being a quitter. It took a lot of hard work and dedication and perseverance to reach the level he’s reached, and he needs to find that same tenacity for his personal life.”

You can follow Sam Gardner on Twitter or e-mail him at samgardnerfox@gmail.com.

Tagged: Mississippi, Marshall, Marshall Henderson

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