Josh Henderson isn’t in mint condition. Quite the contrary in fact.
Vanderbilt’s 6-foot-11 center is fragile goods, playing on a tender, surgically repaired (twice) left foot.
But he’s back on the court. That’s a victory in itself for the Commodores, who shook off Division II Delta State for a 69-48 victory on Monday night in their final exhibition contest.
In his first action of the preseason, Henderson scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds in 16 minutes.
“It felt great to be out there,” he said. “I’m out there having fun, having a great time. I’ve been waiting a while to play with these guys on the court. I’ve been through a lot. I was just happy to play. I’m not where I was maybe a year ago but I’m just trying to get rid of that rust, get back in the game. I felt like [Monday] went pretty well.”
Coach Kevin Stallings held his breath every time his valuable big man leapt off the floor to attack the glass, or spun to execute a hook shot.
Henderson, a sophomore from Roanoke, Va., had been sidelined since the start of practices as his foot injury worsened. He only began practicing just three days ago. He has played just eight career games. His season was cut short last November when he suffered a stress fracture. He underwent two surgeries over the next four months.
“He gives us some things that we don’t have when he is not on the floor,” Stallings said. “I don’t think he is experiencing a lot of pain in the foot at this moment. But the way that thing goes is he goes along and he is OK for a while and then all of a sudden one day it hurts. Then we’ve got a stress fracture. That foot has just not been very good. We’re hopeful we’re past it and we won’t have to look back.”
Kedren Johnson led all scorers with 18 points, Rod Odom added 17 and Kyle Fuller chipped in 10.
Sophomore shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker missed his second exhibition game as he remains suspended for a violation of non-academic team rules. Stallings said it “may be a while” before Parker returns.
The Commodores missed 10 of their first 12 shots and their opening six 3-pointers to fall behind 14-9 more than 10 minutes in. But Odom’s excuse-me 3-pointer broke the perimeter spell and sparked a 14-0 run. Odom accounted for 12 points, starting with a 3-pointer that he banked off the glass. After freshman Kevin Bright drove the baseline for a nifty slam dunk, Odom closed out the spurt with the next nine points. His 3-pointer at the 5:03 mark put Vanderbilt up 28-20.
“I felt after Rod hit that bank shot the baskets started to open up a little bit more for everybody,” Johnson said.