Sports WNBA Draft: Destanni Henderson riding NCAA title game stardom to pro ball and national celebrity
Senators expected to sign 2020 No. 5 pick Jake Sanderson 'in coming days'
There's a chance Sanderson could make his debut with the club before the end of the regular season.The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the 2020 No. 5 overall pick is expected to sign his entry-level contract in the coming days. Sanderson may only be 19, but he has little left to gain from the college level. With 26 points in 23 games, Sanderson was not only one of the top scorers for the Fighting Hawks but one of the NCAA’s most productive defensemen. That doesn’t even speak to his top-notch defense either, which may be an even stronger part of his game than his offense.
, Fla. — Destanni Henderson has gone from a WNBA prospect to a possible first-rounder. All it took was 40 minutes.
The Fort Myers High School graduate has seen a career-best performance in the final game of her South Carolina career, a 64-49 NCAA championship game victory over UConn, reverberating in her pursuits as a professional basketball player, social media personality, and entrepreneur.
"It's still busy, still living in the moment, and people are so excited, especially coming back to school," Henderson said Friday. "It feels really good to be back on campus and to feel the love that everybody has for our team and what we've accomplished."
Bobby Brink, Dryden McKay, Ben Meyers named Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalists
The trophy is given to the top NCAA player in the country and has an impressive line of winners over the past few years. In 2014, Johnny Gaudreau took home the award as a junior for Boston College, followed by Jack Eichel in his only year for Boston University in 2015. Jimmy Vesey, Will Butcher and Adam Gaudette don’t bring quite the same impact but still became NHL regulars after winning from 2016-18. © George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports Team USA forward Ben Meyers is up for college hockey's top individual honor.
Henderson won't be in Columbia, South Carolina, long as she is one of only 12 players invited to New York City to attend Monday night's WNBA Draft (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Gamecocks' point guard was not included in the first wave of invitees and her mother Joyel James called her Wednesday to see if she had any news. Somebody must have been listening.
"I was actually cleaning my home," said Henderson. "I'm just preparing myself because I will be graduating and leaving at some point. And (the WNBA) called me and it's crazy. My mom called me about 30 minutes before they ended up calling me. She had seen where another player got invited. 'Did you hear anything?'
Duke basketball: Coach K's 42 Blue Devils teams, ranked: Which one is No. 1?
Mike Krzyzewski has won five titles and had 13 teams reach the Final Four. But he won't get into a debate on which of his teams ranks No. 1.“Just like I don’t rate my daughters or my grandchildren,” he said last week.
"They didn't reach out to me. I was just keeping things in a good, positive mindset. If it happens, it happens. Thirty minutes later they ended up calling me."
Not just one shining moment
The invite came three days after Henderson had a game for the ages. She scored a career-high 26 points vs. UConn, which included three 3-pointers in the first half and six key points in the fourth quarter when the Huskies made a run. She also stepped up defensively against All-American Paige Bueckers, holding her to 14 points and just five after halftime.
And America watched as Henderson made sure the Gamecocks would be national champions. A combined audience of 4.85 million viewers made last Sunday's game the most-watched women's championship in 18 years.
South Carolina's Dawn Staley aims to give 2022 women's championship net to Black journalists
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley wants the netlace to represent something more than a title game win. She seeks to give it to Black Journalists.The net was cut down by the South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday after dominating the floor in Minneapolis against UConn to secure the national championship.
"It just showed what I'm capable of in special moments, just doing whatever I need to do to win the basketball game, whether it's offense or defense, or both," said Henderson, who was selected to the all-tournament team. "I feel like I played both sides of the ball really, really well, which was an eye-opener."
That certainly was the case for ESPN's two WNBA analysts, LaChina Robinson and Rebecca Lobo.
"Her stock went way up," Robinson said in a conference call Thursday. "I think whenever you have a player that can show up on the big stage when their number is called or their team needs some momentum, that's exciting for WNBA coaches and GMs, someone that can perform at a high level under the bright lights."
Added Lobo: "Every time there was a big game this season, she stepped up and played well and disrupted things on both ends of the floor."
Canadian contingent, led by Michigan's Owen Power, set for NCAA's Frozen Four
Mel Pearson lists off the benefits of playing NCAA hockey. Countless recruits — including a number of Canadians — have heard the spiel over the years from the University of Michigan's head coach and plenty of other bench bosses across the U.S. college ranks. Getting a top-drawer education, more practice time, an emphasis on off-ice workouts, a longer development runway and being in the thick of an energetic campus life are all part of the package. There's one aspect, however, Pearson and coaches across the NCAA don't have to mention, even though they still do. It's on TV every night. "The National Hockey League is really our biggest sales pitch," Pearson said.
Henderson said she's had interviews with three WNBA teams in the past couple of days.
"It's basically recruiting all over again," she said, with a chuckle.
Robinson and Lobo believe whatever team drafts Henderson is getting someone special, and her national title game performance only reinforced that.
"We knew she was quick," Robinson said. "You know about her leadership at the point guard spot and how fast she is. She changes the game on both ends, both defensively and offensively. But I think her ability to knock down the 3-point shot is something that definitely catches the eye of GMs and coaches and the league and what she can do at the next level."
Building on her brand
Fort Myers High girls basketball coach Chad Terrell has watched Henderson continue to blossom after she guided three of his(2016-18) and was named the 2018 Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Basketball and a McDonald's All-American.
"I'm just happy for her," he said. "That's why most coaches coach because they want to see kids fulfill their dreams of playing at the next level, get a college scholarship, get a college degree. You've got to put in a lot of hard work and make a lot of sacrifices to get to where she is. To see that, I'm glad I can just sit back and be a fan of it."
Top NCAA goal scorer Ethen Frank signs AHL contract
Frank, 24, tickled the twine 26 times this season for the Broncos, edging past Northeastern’s Aidan McDonough for tops in the country. The undrafted forward leaves college with 70 goals over his 158-game career.Frank, 24, tickled the twine 26 times this season for the Broncos, edging past Northeastern’s Aidan McDonough for tops in the country. The undrafted forward leaves college with 70 goals over his 158-game career, an impressive accomplishment regardless of competition. He’ll now try to take that production to the professional level, joining one of the strongest programs in the entire AHL.
Staying in a positive mindset served her well at South Carolina, where she didn't get much playing time until the past two seasons. She was rewarded with two Final Four appearances and a national championship.
Henderson hasn't shown patience in another area, though. After the national championship game, she was coincidentally ready to debut something more from her clothing line. She started(Hennything's Possible, tying into her "Henny" nickname) during the coronavirus pandemic.
She started selling a new jacket with the slogan "Born a star and can't tell me otherwise" on the back on March 18. After the title game, she made another post with her in the outfit Thursday because her personal Instagram had taken off from 98,000 to 130,000 followers. Her clothing line account is at almost 16,000 followers.
The post of her in the jacket has almost 25,000 likes.
"It actually helped quite a bit," Henderson said of the title-game performance transitioning to interest in her clothing line. "My followers shot through the roof. (The 30,000-plus jump) is quite a bit of people following and my fan base, and recognition with my brand as well."
The unveiling of the jacket was not timed with the start of the NCAA Tournament.
"It just so happened to be perfect timing," she said. "I'm able to bring something I knew that I wanted to wear and exploit my brand as well. That was the perfect piece."
WNBA says it's 'trying everything' to bring detained Brittney Griner home from Russia
"Certainly we're trying everything we can, every angle," WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert says of efforts to bring Brittney Griner home.Griner has been detained in Russia since mid-February when she arrived at a Moscow airport.
In another coincidence, Henderson is heading to one of the fashion capitals of the world.
"I'm just going to continue to do what I'm doing and just gain as much information as I can," she said. "I want to just express myself.
"I feel like nothing is really going to change, but only change for the better."
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at email@example.com. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press:
With Brittney Griner's status uncertain, Phoenix Mercury select front court depth in WNBA draft .
With Brittney Griner still detained in Russia, the Mercury addressed its depth concerns in the front court in the WNBA draft with its two selections. The Mercury added Notre Dame forward Maya Dodson and IUPUI center Macee Williams with the No. 26 and No. 32 overall picks in the draft. "I think they’re two extremely talented players who had a lot of success at the collegiate level and we think they have a lot of potential. We need some more depth at our post position and they both can do that," Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said.