Various players' answers to the question, "Why Duke?" appear with their biographies in the Blue Devils' 1986-87 media guide. Freshman Phil Henderson explained his decision to enroll by saying, "The pace of life is really comfortable. It seems like you can go at whatever pace you choose."
If Henderson really believed that when he arrived at Duke 14 months ago, he doesn't anymore. He came to Durham. N.C., as a McDonald's All-America, with a golden arch of an outside shot and a knack for the man-to-man defense favored by the Blue Devils. And he looked good, even superb at times, through Duke's first eight games. But Henderson had chosen an easy pace—one that allowed for basketball, but not for getting course work in on time.
In early January, as the Blue Devils traveled to Virginia for their first ACC game, Henderson was pronounced academically ineligible for the second semester. Duke went on to have a 24—9 season and reach the Sweet 16, but coach Mike Krzyzewski is certain the Blue Devils would have been better with Henderson. "You need 8 to 10 people to win in our conference," he says. "Phil gave us depth on the perimeter."
In appearance, the reedy, 6'4" Henderson suggests Johnny Dawkins, the leader of Duke's 37-win Final Four team of 1986. Take Henderson's 15 points and two steals in nine minutes during a 76-67 defeat of Alabama last Dec. 13 and project them over 40 minutes, and you have numbers that Dawkins himself would have admired. But none of that counts in Krzyzewski's mind: "Phil's like a freshman again. He has to show us we can depend on him."
November 18, 1987
Henderson, who did well in summer school, is ready to take another shot. "Like all the guys here, I could have gone someplace and been the Man," he says. "But I'm not one of those guys who wears five gold chains. I like the fact that this is a seniority-oriented program. You build your way to the top."
On some page in Duke's 1989-90 media guide, the question may be. "What Did You Get Out of Duke?" Henderson knows his answer: "I let the school use me," he says, "but I used the school back."