He wasn’t gone for long, but the local basketball community missed him just the same.
Just a few weeks after announcing he was transferring from Bakersfield Christian to Southern California Academy, a prep high school located in Santa Clarita, Lendl Henderson Jr. had a change of heart.
The 6-foot-5 forward, the reigning South Yosemite League player of the year, re-enrolled at BCHS this week and was due to start classes on Wednesday.
“I feel like I had let my team down,” said Henderson, who averaged 17 points and seven rebounds a game in leading the Eagles to the SoCal Regional title last year. “I just felt like I had given up on all the guys. And I know this year is supposed to be another big year. I just wanted to finish it off with my brothers for my senior season.”
Initially, Henderson made the decision to transfer to SCA in the hopes of receiving more exposure from college coaches. But with several offers already in hand, Henderson began to have second thoughts.
The tipping point to returning to Bakersfield Christian came during an open gym last weekend where he had an opportunity to play with Seth Morantos, the Eagles talented point guard. Morantos and Henderson have played on the same team the last six years, and the thought of not having him by his side was the deciding factor.
“I just really missed playing with him,” Henderson said. “We’ve always played together since we were little. And he’s the best guard that I’ve ever played with. We just have so much chemistry on the court, I just want to keep playing with him as long as I can.”
After returning from playing, Henderson met with his father, Lendl Sr., and grandfather Milt Henderson, the longtime East High boys basketball coach who served as an assistant at BCHS last year.
“We had one last sit down and we just talked about what is the best decision for me,” Henderson said. “And where I felt comfortable. After talking, we all agreed that it was best for me to stay here. So I’m staying here.”
Another important factor was having the opportunity to play for the current Eagles’ coaching staff, especially for his grandfather, according to Lendl Sr.
“I feel good about everything,” Henderson said. “I feel like this is something I’ve always wanted to do and I want to finish it out. I’m glad I decided to return and that I had the support of my dad and grandfather.”
Second-year BCHS coach Garrett Brown is happy to have Henderson back and is looking forward to coaching him again this season.
“Building relationships is key for me and it’s something that I’ve learned from my dad (Fresno State assistant Keith Brown) through all the years of him coaching,” Garrett Brown said. “I feel like that’s one of the things that I’m really good at. So when I have players leave, it’s like losing a family member because I feel like I’m that close to them.
"So (Henderson transferring) was a tough situation to deal with, but obviously I supported his decision and it was something that he felt that he needed to do to get better or get to the next level. Obviously, with him coming back, it’s great to have a chance to be a part of his senior year and to watch him continue to develop.”