“Hopefully I’ll be a trailblazer before their eyes, but I can’t speak for everybody,” Henderson said. “It was just the best decision for me. Hopefully they’ll pick their best decision.”
The G League is the developmental league of the NBA, essentially its minor leagues. The league traditionally has been training ground for NBA free agents or borderline NBA roster players assigned to the league by NBA teams.
What makes Henderson unique in the G League is his age. He turned 17 in February, meaning he’ll be the youngest player and need two years before the NBA can sign him.
The G League became an alternative to college basketball last year when the nation’s top recruit at the time, Jalen Green, signed with a new team called the Ignite for $500,000. The Ignite, coached by former NBA coach Brian Shaw, will be Henderson’s team and feature several players bypassing college basketball.
Three other high school stars, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix and Jonathan Kuminga, joined Green last year with the Ignite. Henderson and Jaden Hardy, a five-star guard from Henderson, Nev., are the latest to sign up.
What emboldened Henderson to take the leap wasn’t so much those guys, despite Green’s status as a likely top-five overall pick in the next NBA draft. Rather, it was Georgia’s recent history of high NBA picks, most with whom Henderson sometimes trains.
They include Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro of the Cavaliers and Jared Harper of the Knicks, all recent Cobb County products, as is Henderson. Another is Auburn’s Sharife Cooper, a likely first-round pick this year. Cooper and Okoro played at McEachern, Sexton and Harper at Pebblebrook and Brown at Wheeler.
“Those guys are from my city,” Henderson said. “Watching those guys gives me faith that I can do it, too. With my work ethic and team I’ll have around me (in the G League), it’s almost inevitable for that to happen.”
To be draft-eligible, a player must be one season removed from high school and at least 19 years old. Henderson will complete the first criterion in a year. Henderson will graduate early from Kell, reclassifying as a 2021 prospect. That’s also how Anthony Edwards of Holy Spirit Prep did it in 2019. He reclassified, graduated early and played a season at Georgia. But Henderson won’t turn 19 until 2023, so he’ll need two years in the G League.
Henderson will report to the Ignite in August, and the season begins in the fall. It’s far from home – the Ignite is based in Walnut Creek, a town in northern California. But Henderson is eager to head west.
“I’m just blessed that the G League had this organization,” Henderson said of the Ignite. “From the moment I found out about it, it just looked like it was the best path for me.”