Gerald Henderson, who starred at Duke from 2006-2009, says he sees some comparisons between himself and a current Blue Devil. Ted Richardson News & Observer file photo
Gerald Henderson, who starred at Duke from 2006-2009, says he sees some comparisons between himself and a current Blue Devil. Ted Richardson News & Observer file photo

College Sports

Here’s what former Hornets and Duke star Gerald Henderson likes best about his rehab

December 07, 2017 04:11 PM

Despite interest from a handful of NBA teams before the start of the current season, former Duke star and ex-Charlotte Bobcat/Hornet Gerald Henderson elected to have hip surgery and miss the year.

As for how that rehab process is coming?

“I feel great,” Henderson said via phone on Thursday. “I’m at the kind of phase where you can actually start moving a bit. Not full speed, but some limited jumping and limited. ... not running yet, but the beginning stages of running. I’m trying to train myself how to run physically, powerfully.”

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Gerald Henderson (9) played six seasons in Charlotte for the Bobcats and Hornets before being traded to Portland.
David T. Foster, III

Henderson’s hip issues began in 2011 with Charlotte, when he had surgery to repair a torn hip labrum. Then in the summer of 2015 with Portland, he underwent left hip arthroscopic surgery. Last season with the Philadelphia 76ers, there were points throughout the season when Henderson would have to sit to cope with his hip pain. Rather than continuing to suffer through that, he elected to try and resolve those issues on a more permanent level.

And while that means Henderson will miss this season, he said there’s a benefit he hasn’t experienced for most of his life.

“I feel fresh,” Henderson said. “I’ve had since mid-April, and I can’t think of a time in the past 15 years where I’ve ever been able to just focus on my body and not play. I wish I was playing now, but I’m just focusing in and put 100 percent of my time into my body.

“It gets tough at times, you watch games and you want to be out there, but I’m a realist. This is the card I’ve been dealt, and I know it’s a privilege to play basketball, so I’m willing to do all the work to get back and do what I love.”

Closest comparison on Duke roster?

During the rehab process, Henderson said he’s been receiving treatment at his alma mater, where he starred from 2006-2009. That means he’s had a firsthand look at the current Duke roster, which is ranked No. 1 in the country.

“They’ve got a lot of talent on this team, a lot of young talent, so that’ll be just the biggest challenge for them going forward,” Henderson said. “How can they stay on track, how they make up for the things they lose in experience with their talent – and so chemistry will be huge for them.”

But of the current Blue Devils, there isn’t one who matches Henderson’s skill set. But there is one who stands out somewhat like the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Henderson.

“If there was one player, I’d say maybe Gary Trent Jr.,” Henderson said of the 6-6, 209-pound freshman. “A bit different games in term of athleticism and he shoots the 3 better than I did, but he gets into the midrange and shoots midrange shots like I used to, and defends. The one thing I notice the most about him is his attitude, his demeanor.

“He comes into every game with a serious mindset, coming to take numbers, man, and I like that. He comes from an NBA family like myself, so I think that’s where he started that.”

Trent – whose father played nine years in the NBA – averages 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds. Those numbers most closely mirror Henderson’s sophomore year, when he averaged 12.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Keeping up with his coaches

Henderson’s NBA career has taken him from Charlotte to Portland to Philadelphia, but his best seasons were in the Queen City. He remains close with Hornets point guard Kemba Walker and coach Steve Clifford, who is away from the team dealing with health issues.

“I’m actually sitting here preparing a text message to send to Cliff, want to check on him,” Henderson said. “I’m not sure what the health issues are, but I just hope he’s OK . It’s tough. I just hope everything’s all right with him because he’s a great guy, great coach, and just want to see him healthy.”

As for Henderson’s college coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, he’s dealt with health issues of his own in recent years. Krzyzewski missed several games last season having back surgery, but he has returned healthy this season. With Krzyzewski, 70, getting older, there have been questions about his longevity with the Blue Devils. But Henderson said there’s no guessing how much longer Krzyzewski will coach.

“When I was here, I thought he was only going to do it for another few years, and now it’s 10 years later,” Henderson said. “I can’t put a timetable on that.”

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks