MIKE NIETO: Phil Henderson went way too soon

2013-02-21T18:00:00Z 2013-02-22T02:33:06Z MIKE NIETO: Phil Henderson went way too soonMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
February 21, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

To some, they will remember the late Phil Henderson dunking over Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning in a 1989 NCAA Regional final in East Rutherford, N.J.

Or his part in helping Duke to the 1990 NCAA championship game.

To the people of Crete-Monee, University Park and the south suburbs, Henderson was just another local guy.

And a good one, too.

Life is too short.

Henderson, 44, died Sunday in the Philippines, where he was running the Filipino Basketball Academy outside of Manila.

Despite his fame, Henderson never forgot his roots and his boyhood friends. He recently ran a training academy in Tinley Park, and when Crete-Monee went through the summer of 2011 without a coach, Henderson worked with the kids -- kids just like he was when he was playing for the Warriors.

"Phil had an interest in what was going on in the community," lifelong friend and University Park Park District program supervisor Greg Murray said. "He would do anything for the kids."

His training academy taught basketball, but also life skills. Henderson was the example of using basketball to get an education. He played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke in one of the most prestigious programs in the country. It is also a top academic university.

I remember talking with Phil and Murray one day, and Henderson was not concerned with himself, but with Crete-Monee kids. I think if he could have, he would have built a multi-million dollar training facility complete with a brand new football complex. As long as it was for the kids.

Phil made you feel at home and just loved to talk, but not about himself. He would only do so if it could be used to help the Crete-Monee program or a youth program.

In an era where people are stuck on themselves and flash their credentials, Phil Henderson was a breath of fresh air. Phil just liked to talk and always seemed to be more concerned with how you were doing than himself.

He will be missed. I am sure the kids in the Filipino Basketball Academy will miss him. His children will miss him. He was one of those guys who made others feel better by just talking with them. He carried himself like a winner.

He left us way too soon. Who knows how much more of a contribution he would have made or how many more kids he would have influenced.

We will never know, but we do know what Henderson left us. For kids who play at Crete-Monee High School, he is a role model.

He is also a reminder that life is too short.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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