Duke University, the consensus villain of March Madness, is a little harder to dislike this year, and the reason is their superstar guard Gerald Henderson Jr. Son of former Boston Celtic Gerald Henderson**, Gerald Jr. plays an un-Duke-like aggressive, above-the-rim game. He's the perfect antidote to smug Dukies like J.J. Reddick and Shane Battier.
What I didn't know about Gerald Jr. is that he has a golf game too, one that impressed Tiger Woods, according to longtime Philadelphia Inquirer writer Bob Ford. Those who know Gerald Sr. know that his great athletic passion since retiring from basketball is golf, a passion he passed on to his son at a very early age. Gerald Jr. took to the game and was playing it at a high level, even as a teenager. One of his frequent playing partners was Eagles announcer Merrill Reese.As a father who knows how hard the basketball life can be, and how quickly it can end, if Junior had wanted to put his energy into golf, dad wouldn't have stood in the way. When Gerald Jr. was about 14, he had the opportunity to meet Tiger Woods, who agreed to analyze the younger man's game. What did Tiger tell Gerald Sr. after that encounter?"He's farther advanced at this age than I was," said Woods, who doesn't hand out compliments easily.The young man took that information and told his father that he still wanted to pursue basketball as a career rather than golf. Later this year, the younger Henderson will be a first-round pick in the NBA draft, so it's not like he made a bad decision. Makes you wonder if Tiger's pulling for Duke this year since Stanford is watching from home.
**When I was 10 years old, Gerald Henderson Sr. signed an autograph for me outside Strawberries record store in Dedham, Mass. He must have purchased 10 or 15 records in one visit, which looked to me at the time like the height of worldly success.