Former Blue Devil Phil Henderson dies
Even before they teamed up at Duke, Alaa Abdelnaby and Phil Henderson became friends at a high school all-star game in spring 1986.
Henderson made an impression on Abdelnaby with his game and his off-the-court demeanor.
As their basketball careers progressed with the Blue Devils, they played on three Final Four teams and Abdelnaby’s appreciation for Henderson only grew.
“Phil was a soft-spoken, good guy who when we were on the floor, it was a lot of fun,” Abdelnaby said. “He was a lot of fun to play with. When he got it going, he was awfully fun to watch.”
Abdelnaby, like the entire Duke basketball community, was stunned Monday to learn that Henderson had died of a heart attack in the Philippines at the age of 44.
Drafted in the second round of the 1990 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, Henderson played overseas for several seasons. In recent years, he moved to the Philippines and established the Filipino Basketball Academy.
“On behalf of the entire Duke Basketball family, we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Phil Henderson,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our hearts go out to his mom and family. Phil was a talented player and a good man with a gentle soul. We will miss him dearly.”
Krzyzewski said he spoke to Henderson’s mother Monday morning about his former player.
“He was a good guy and a very talented player,” Krzyzewski said. “A gentle person, a real gentle person. Everyone in our basketball family is mourning his passing.”
Henderson, a guard from suburban Chicago, was named a McDonald’s All-American after his senior season at Crete-Monee High School. It was at the McDonald’s All-American game in Detroit that he met Abdelnaby, a center from New Jersey who also had signed with the Blue Devils.
“We go back pretty far,” Abdelnaby said. “I just remember bonding with him in Detroit. I just remember him being so proud of where he was from, University Park, Ill. He was very close to brother and his mother, so my heart goes out to his family.”
That same spring, Duke was playing in its first NCAA Tournament championship game of Krzyzewski’s tenure. The Blue Devils lost to Louisville, but Henderson and Abdelnaby were part of the class that made Duke basketball a constant presence at the Final Four.
During their final three seasons, Duke made the Final Four each year from 1988-90.
In his junior season, Henderson led Duke over Georgetown in the regional final to earn the Blue Devils a trip to the 1989 Final Four in Seattle.
Against Georgetown, he scored 23 points and made one of the most memorable plays in Duke history when he drove down the lane and dunked over Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning.
Henderson started all 36 games as a junior, averaging 12.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Henderson captained the Blue Devils as a senior, when Duke reached the national title game again and lost to UNLV. In his senior season, Henderson led the Blue Devils in scoring at 18.5 points per game and was a second-team All-ACC pick.
That March, he averaged 22.3 points per game in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. He was named to the ACC All-Tournament, NCAA All-East Regional and NCAA All-Final Four teams.
He scored 1,397 points in his Duke career from 1986-90.
“There’s no question he was an integral part of our success during that time period,” Krzyzewski said. “He was a really talented player and could really score the ball deceptively. You didn’t think of him being the athlete that he was because he kind of had a frail body and was thin. But he could shoot, really a streak shooter where he could put up points real quick.”