Sunday July 13th, 2008

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Seantrel Henderson expects the subject to arise this school year when college coaches are officially allowed to finally contact him. Marlon Brown, a year older than Henderson, already has made up his mind.

Henderson, from St. Paul, Minn., and Brown, from Memphis, Tenn., are two of the better players at this weekend's Nike Peach Jam. Coaches from across the nation would love to have the 6-foot-7, 305-pound Henderson patrolling the paint or the 6-5, 205-pound Brown on the wing. But another set of coaches covets Henderson and Brown even more. Henderson, a rising junior at Cretin-Derham Hall, may be the top offensive tackle prospect -- and possibly the top overall prospect -- in the class of 2010. Brown, a senior at Harding Academy, is ranked as the nation's No. 2 receiver in the class of 2009 by Rivals.com.

And each wants to do double duty in college. "That's what I want to do," said Henderson, a gentle giant who usually gets his way on the field and on the court. Brown, meanwhile, said the programs that stay in the hunt for his services will be the ones that will allow him to play both sports.

Starring in two sports has grown more difficult in the age of paranoid millionaire coaches. Earlier this decade, Ronald Curry and Julius Peppers both starred on the grass and on the hardwood at North Carolina before going to the NFL. Tony Gonzalez helped Cal to the Sweet 16 in 1997 before picking football for a pro career. Before that, Charlie Ward won a Heisman Trophy as Florida State's quarterback before embarking on an 11-year NBA career.

Now, football coaches, worried that allowing players any time away from the football program will spell immediate doom, have nearly killed off the two-sport star. West Virginia backup quarterback Jarrett Brown still plays both sports. Florida tight end Cornelius Ingram played hoops as a freshman, but he gave it up to concentrate on football.

Terrelle Pryor, the Jeanette, Pa., quarterback who dragged his recruitment two weeks past national signing day before he inked with Ohio State, could have bucked that trend. Pryor, a 6-5 wing, could have demanded that he be allowed to play basketball. Instead, he chose to play only football. Brown hopes he isn't forced to choose, and he has the leverage in the form of offers to keep both sports on the table.

At the moment, Brown's list is a who's who of football powers -- with UCLA and Stanford also in the mix. With offers from practically every school in the top 50, Brown pared his list to Florida, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA and USC. Not coincidentally, all 10 of his semifinalists made the NCAA Tournament in basketball at least once in the past three seasons, and four (Florida, LSU, Ohio State and UCLA) have advanced to the Final Four in the past three seasons.

Brown will have several high-powered coaching tag teams recruiting him. It's tough enough to say no to one coach, but how does a player say no to Jim Tressel-Thad Matta, Urban Meyer-Billy Donovan, Pete Carroll-Tim Floyd or Rick Neuheisel-Ben Howland? Meanwhile, newbie Trent Johnson may score some points with co-worker Les Miles if he can help get Brown to Baton Rouge.

All that interest has made for a busy summer for Brown. "I've been to Stanford, UCLA, USC and Tennessee," Brown said. "All this summer." On top of that, he has played for the YOMCA Team Memphis traveling squad. Still in the works are an unofficial visit to Florida and the AAU national tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

A basketball assistant at one of the schools on Brown's list said the Harding Academy star certainly has the basketball skills to play anywhere he chooses. Saturday morning, Brown quietly piled up 25 points in a win against Baltimore-based Team Melo. While Brown doesn't do anything flashy, he chooses his shots well, he takes care of the ball and he covers his man like -- what else? -- a lockdown defensive back.

Henderson, meanwhile, is a road grader on the football field and a mighty road block on the court. Opponents can't box him out, and they seem shocked when they realize he can jump and run like a player half his size. Henderson, the sixth man on the Howard Pulley Panthers traveling team, spent much of Saturday night guarding Oklahoma City, Okla., star Daniel Orton, a 6-10 rising senior who is mulling offers from most of the top 25. While Henderson only finished with six points and five rebounds, he made the game-winning bucket. Orton finished with two points and one rebound.

Henderson said he loves both sports equally, though the affair with hoops did begin first. "I started playing basketball in third grade," Henderson said. "I started playing football in fourth grade. I went from there."

So where will Henderson and Brown go from here? Will they be allowed to follow their hearts and play both sports, or will they be forced to choose?

Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, isn't the only son of a former NBA player at the Peach Jam. Glen Rice Jr., son of the former Michigan and Miami Heat sharpshooter, is a starter for the Georgia Stars.

Also in the tournament is Rising Stars Gold guard Marcus Jordan, the son of His Airness himself. Jordan, a rising senior at Chicago's Whitney Young magnet school, plays alongside point guard Cully Payne (Alabama commitment) and class of 2010 forward Jereme Richmond (Illinois commitment). Jordan, whose older brother, Jeffrey, is an Illinois walk-on, scored 16 points Saturday night in a loss to the Illinois Warriors.

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