Bjork defends Henderson decision

Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork says the program has steps in place to protect its athletes. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)

Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork says the program has steps in place to protect its athletes. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork brushed off criticism for the school’s handling of basketball star Marshall Henderson and says steps are being taken to help Henderson get past a history of substance abuse.

Henderson detailed some of his past in an interview granted to ESPN’s Andy Katz earlier this week.

It was not news to Bjork, who made the decision to suspend Henderson – and not to remove him from the team – in July.

The Wall Street Journal cited police records in reporting that Henderson was cited for driving without proof of insurance in an early May. That traffic stop also turned up small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, according to the report.

Henderson was not arrested on the belief that the amounts were so small that the case would not have been prosecuted, the report said.

Ole Miss takes on NCAA Division II South Carolina-Aiken in an exhibition game tonight at 6 at Tad Smith Coliseum.

Henderson will not play tonight. He’ll also miss the Nov. 8 season opener against Troy and the first two SEC games – Jan. 9 against Auburn and Jan. 11 at Mississippi State – are part of the suspension announced by the school earlier this week.

Henderson was not removed from the team, because there was no arrest and he had not violated team policy to the point that such action was required, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.

Kennedy, beginning his eighth season as coach, has removed players from the program before.

“I know there’s a lot of speculation about Marshall and failing a drug test or 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, then the penalty would have been the same for him,” Kennedy said.

Henderson led the SEC in scoring last season with 20.1 points a game and was a key player as the Rebels equalled a school record with 27 wins, won the SEC tournament and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.

Bjork was hired in the spring of 2012 and spoke immediately of operating the department with a focus on the well-being of student-athletes.

“That’s really the genesis of all this, to help the person first and foremost. Andy and I talked the first time and said we really didn’t care if he ever played another basketball game at Ole Miss. He needs help,” Bjork said. “We have a big system in place that is helping Marshall through this. This part is really subject to privacy, as he goes through all that. There’s not a lot of detail I can give, but I can tell you it’s a robust program. There are a lot of things in place to monitor him, and as he goes through this he’s getting better every single day.”

Athlete’s welfare

It was an easy decision to become heavily involved in the handling of Henderson, he said, pointing out his involvement with women’s basketball players after former coach Adrian Wiggins was removed abruptly prior to the start of the 2012-2013 season.

“As an AD if we’re going to talk about student-athlete welfare the core of our values then the AD should be involved and have a personal relationship with all of our student-athletes if I can,” Bjork said. “That takes a lot of time and commitment, but if you’re going to speak about their welfare it has to start at the top.”

Bjork says he isn’t concerned about perception for the administration in the aftermath of the Henderson decision.

“I don’t have a problem defending the fact that we are helping a young man through a difficult process. I am confident in the conversations we had relative to basketball and how those were treated with the highest integrity related to whether he would play again or not. Our focus is on what’s best for our program and what’s best for the young people in our program.”

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  • Brendan Duffy

    It’s always the star player who gets treated differently. He should have entered with a lower threshold of error because of his past, but it is actually the opposite. He will probably continue to disrupt, because he can, and eventually its not good for him or the team.

    • NT5150

      I agree with you 100%, Brendan. From now until March Madness ends, Henderson (who has had MANY second chances) will dictate the national perception of Ole Miss; Henderson is our poster boy. A little coke? A little weed? Jailtime? Who cares?
      Henderson saved Kennedy’s job.
      Henderson is the SEC scoring champ.
      Henderson won the SEC championship.
      Henderson got us to the promised land…the NCAA tournament.
      IMO, conscientious stupidity and sincere ignorance are Henderson’s best friends…and Ole Miss.

      • Kevin Paul

        Actually, Ole Miss did not win the SEC Basketball Championship. Florida won the SEC Championship, while Ole Miss won the tournament championship.

  • Killer_Beeze

    I’m a Marshall Henderson fan…period! He is not a fully mature adult. Give the kid some slack. We all had our “mischievous” moments while growing up. Give him a break boys.

    • Richard Riffe

      Yea, give him a break and a scholarship that’s going to waste. Bet if he was averaging 3 points a game he’d be gone. Bjork is starting to sound like the potus making excuses for the obamacare website. No matter how bad it is he is going to whitewash it. This “help the student” talk I ain’t buying.

  • pdreb

    Sooner or later Henderson will be gone this season. An elephants could not carry the baggage that guy has.

    • Killer_Beeze

      Elephants? Baggage? One thing’s for damn sure: elephants can’t shoot a basketball like Marshall Henderson. If Ole Miss wins another SEC Basketball Tournament and Marshall Henderson is selected (again) as the MVP of the tournament you’ll still be critical. Get-a-life.

      • BigOrangeJeff

        Are you saying that Henderson has no baggage?

        • Killer_Beeze

          Did I?
          Don’t you have better things to worry about? Ole Miss is doing just fine and all your ”pulling hair out” comments serve no purpose. Your bloviating is just that.
          Big Orange? Are you a Tenn. fan? If so, what dog do you have in this ‘fight’?

          • BigOrangeJeff

            Did you? That’s the question I’m asking, because your previous response of “Baggage? One thing’s for damn sure…,” implies that you question the previous poster’s comment that Henderson’s jump shot comes with baggage. If that is not your assertion, then the passive-aggressive nature of your response leaves a lot to be desired.

            Yes, I’m a UT fan. This story was linked on an SEC fan site, so I read it, and the facade they’re putting up re: all of the “help” that Henderson is getting couldn’t be more transparent. As a prior poster said, if he couldn’t shoot the ball – and no one is claiming that he can’t – not only would he be off the team, they wouldn’t have admitted him to school in the first place.

            And where, exactly, did I say anything about anyone pulling his/her hair out?

          • Killer_Beeze

            Take a “chill pill” man. You’re gonna have an embolism. Maybe you should ‘focus’ more on the Vols getting their butts kicked by the Mizzou Tigers today.

          • BigOrangeJeff

            Chill pill? Embolism? I couldn’t be more relaxed. And, although it’s off-topic, there is a good chance my Vols will lose tonight, possibly heavily. It’ll take some time for Jones & Co. to dig out of the hole that Kiffin and Dooley dug for us. But I’ll be cheering them on, nonetheless. Nice try at changing the subject, though.

            Back on topic, I can’t help but notice that you failed to answer any of my questions, while I answered all of yours. Afraid to admit the truth that Henderson is nothing but a thug with athletic ability and that Kennedy/Bjork are just making themselves, their employer, and the conference look bad?

          • Killer_Beeze

            My old man–before he left this sh!tty world–told me about people like you:
            “If a person only has a hammer, he tends to see every problem as a nail”.
            End of discussion. Enjoy your loss tonight big orange guy.

          • BigOrangeJeff

            Not sure how that old adage is germane to the conversation, but thanks for making my point.

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  • BigOrangeJeff

    So neither the AD nor the coach cars if Henderson every plays another basketball game, they just want to help him? Here’s a solution: remove him from the team, but let him stay in school and stay in his “robust” rehab program. That way, Henderson gets the help he needs and gets his education, but the coach and AD get to keep their integrity.

  • pdreb

    Killer, Henderson is a goofy thug who will screw up and be gone before the season is over. As far a shooting. Is concerned, he made 27% of this three point attempts last season. That’s pure crap.

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