Marshall Henderson (Getty Images)
The Ole Miss star will sit out the Rebels' exhibition game on Saturday night, their regular season opener the following weekend and their first two SEC games in January, the school announced Tuesday morning. That means the three regular season games Henderson will miss are at home against Troy and Auburn and on the road at rival Mississippi State.
Henderson's suspension was reportedly preceded by multiple failed drug tests and a return to a hard-partying lifestyle once the Rebels' 2012-13 season ended with an NCAA tournament loss to La Salle in the Round of 32. Ole Miss subsequently set up a phone call between Henderson and Chris Herren and established a series of ground rules the rising senior had to meet to return to the team.
A player who didn't average 20.1 points per game probably wouldn't have received another chance given Henderson's checkered history.
In high school, Henderson was arrested for using counterfeit money to buy marijuana. In college, he spent time in prison in spring 2012 after violating his probation by testing positive for marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. Henderson also became college basketball's most polarizing player last season because of his habit of taunting opposing fans, whether it was gator-chomping down the court at Florida, thumping his chest in front of the Auburn student section or flipping off the entire arena after an NCAA tournament loss to LaSalle.
In a recent Q&A with ESPN.com, Henderson acknowledged he made mistakes during the offseason and expressed gratitude to Ole Miss for not dismissing him from the team.
"When basketball is not there, it's always been a bad time for me," Henderson said. "I still wonder how things just got out of control. I was thinking I was above everything, which is crazy because I've never thought that way before.I'm like, "Well, I'm not a professional, so I don't get paid, so why is partying when the season is over frowned upon? Why do I have to be held to a higher standard? These people I'm with -- future doctors, lawyers, businessmen -- they don't have to take a drug test. Why do I? I just kind of created this unrealistic stuff in my head.
"This is the first time I ever just realized, 'Holy crap, they gave me another chance.' I thank them every day. I can't believe that they did."
It's easy to make the case Ole Miss was too lenient in its punishment for Henderson, but at least the Rebels didn't merely suspend their star guard for three games at the start of the season against bottom-feeding opponents.
By getting creative and going with a staggered suspension that includes two SEC foes – one being the Rebels' biggest rival – the school gave Henderson's punishment some teeth. Hopefully that's enough to remind him to stay on the right path not just for the rest of the season but also for the rest of his life.
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