Posted: Friday March 3, 2006 12:28PM; Updated: Monday April 10, 2006 10:06AM
By Pete McEntegart, SI.com
In the process, Ellington and Henderson have become arguably the greatest high school duo in the Philadelphia area's basketball-rich history. Ted Silary of the Philadelphia Daily News, who has covered the City of Brotherly Love's hoops scene for 35 years, places them at the top. That's against competition such as Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers (Dobbins Tech '85); Wali Jones and Walt Hazzard (Overbrook '60); Gene Banks and Clarence Tillman (West Philadelphia, '77, '78); and Lee Melchionni and Matt Walsh (Germantown Academy '02).
"What amazes me more than anything about them is how well they got along on the court," says Silary. "There was never a hint of jealousy. I never saw either one take a pigheaded shot. A lot of times when you have two very good players on a team, one tries to outdo the other. But it was incredible the way they blended."
That was true right from the start. Though Episcopal coach Dan Dougherty had some initial concerns about how the multi-skilled Ellington would fit in a team on which Henderson had already emerged as the star, they were quickly allayed. "When we threw Wayne into the mix I really wanted to see how the two of them would handle it," says Dougherty. "But from the very first day of practice, they fit right together because they're both so unselfish."
That rare combination of talent and selflessness has helped make Episcopal, a prestigious Main Line school that churns out many more Ivy League students than Division I basketball players, an unlikely member of the national basketball elite. The team has a third Division I recruit in 6-9 center Mike Yocum (Albany), but the other members of the admittedly thin squad are generally more skilled at sports such as baseball and lacrosse.
Yet the Churchmen followed up a 25-3 season in 2004-05 with a 27-4 mark this year, including wins over St. Patrick's of Elizabeth, N.J., and Philadelphia powers Neumann-Goretti (on a last-second jumper by Ellington in front of an ESPN2 audience) and Roman Catholic. Episcopal finished both seasons ranked No. 1 in the Greater Philadelphia area and went 20-0 over two seasons in its league, the Inter-Academic Athletic Association. (The Inter-Ac doesn't compete in Pennsylvania state championships.)
From Teammates to Rivals
The interest in the pair only increased when they made their college choices, with Ellington opting for defending champion North Carolina and Henderson choosing archrival Duke.
Ellington, who averaged 21.9 points as a senior, is considered the slightly more polished offensive player, though Dougherty might be most pleased by the progress that Ellington made this season as a defensive stopper. Dave Telep, the national basketball recruiting editor for Scout.com, has Ellington ranked as his No. 1 shooting guard prospect nationally and No. 4 player overall.
"He has a sweet jump shot that he can hit from all over the court," says Telep. "A lot of guys have terrific jump shots but they need to be in their favorite spots. Wayne can make it from the deep corners, the deep elbows and everywhere else, and he can also flat-out finish at the rim. With his ball skills, he could eventually morph into an NBA point guard like a Gilbert Arenas."
A few years back, it seemed that Henderson might morph into the next Tiger Woods rather than a potential NBA player. A scratch golfer who played on the Episcopal varsity golf team in the eighth and ninth grade, it was only about two years ago that Henderson made the decision to focus exclusively on basketball after considering a potential future in each sport. Now 6-5, 210 pounds -- about 15 pounds heavier than Ellington -- Henderson is a physical two-way player.
He was Episcopal's second-leading scorer this season (21.5 points a game) while leading the team in rebounding (8.6) and assists (3.9). Telep has Henderson, the son of 13-season NBA veteran Gerald HendersonSr., ranked as the 18th best player in the nation at any position.
"His overall game is just ready for the next level," says the 70-year-old Dougherty, who served as Army's head coach between Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski. (At the high school level, Doherty has 507 wins in 28 seasons at Episcopal and 639 total.) "Offensively, Gerald's become so much better. He sees the whole court, he's able to visualize and make that next pass, and he's just so explosive going to the basket. His defensive ability has also mushroomed over his career. He really takes pride in it."