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John Henson Will Be In Chapel Hill Exactly One Year

But it is going to be a heck of a year.

John Henson is participating in the LeBron James Skills Academy and Mike DeCourcy managed to take in some of his game. According to DeCourcy, Henson will be the top ranked player in the class by the time the recruiting season ends for 2009. There is also a good chance he is a one and doner.

Henson, who stands 6-9, has the reach of Dr. Octavius. His wingspan is measured at nearly 7 feet, 5 inches. He could clean your gutters with a stepstool.

No time for that, though. A resident of Round Rock, Texas, committed to attend North Carolina in the fall of 2009, Henson is busy playing his way from a position of relative obscurity to status as the best college basketball prospect in the senior class.

None of the big Internet services have Henson rated there now, but don't worry, they'll catch on eventually.

On a day when it wasn't easy to find brilliance, even from some of the big-name prospects, Henson bumped up against Detroit's bigger, stronger DaShonte' Riley and revealed extraordinary levels of invention and tenacity.

"I like contact," Henson said. "I like getting physical with somebody and putting it up. Even though I'm small, it's part of what I like to do."

When he says "small," he means his frame. Henson weighs 183 pounds and, like Kevin Durant or Brandan Wright, he'll never be mistaken for Shawne Merriman. But that does not prevent him from battling like an NFL linebacker.

A college coach who watched him Sunday marveled at Henson's instincts and lamented that the Tar Heels already had secured his commitment. A top Internet analyst suggested Henson could wind up ranked first on his site's post-summer top 100 list.

There were several reasons why:

-Trapped on the left block by a strong defensive double-team, Henson destabilized both defenders with some nifty footwork and managed to finger-roll a lefty attempt off the backboard and through the goal.

-Handling the ball on the left wing, Henson made eye contact with Connecticut-bound big man Alex Oriakhi and gestured with a nod of the head that suggested Oriakhi should duck into the post. This was not dazzling, but it showed an awareness of the game uncommon in camp settings.

-After throwing a lefthanded pass across the court on a fast break, Henson chose not to watch his teammate attempt a layup but instead ran the remaining 30 feet to pursue a potential rebound. He said his father encouraged him always to run until the play was over. "It becomes a habit," Henson said. "And also, you want that highlight dunk, so that's also some motivation."

-When guard Taran Buie was handling the ball beyond the foul line and in position to beat his man on a drive, Henson backed away from the lane to create room for Buie's penetration, then filled the gap from behind in case Buie wanted to drop off a backhanded pass or to make himself available for an offensive rebound.

He is as comfortable finishing plays with his left hand as his right. He has the ability to make long-range jump shots, but did not spend any of his time trying to prove that to the audience of coaches, reporters and NBA scouts because the circumstances of the game required him to be inside.

If there were a basketball version of the Wonderlic test, Henson would be Eli Manning. Henson credits his high school coach, Curtis Knight, "and just having the instinct for the game."

The immediate difference I notice between Henson and Brandan Wright is Henson does not shy away from contact. If Wright was in a physical game, such as playing Michigan State in the 2nd round game in 2007, he was worthless. Henson does not appear to be bothered by contact which is a bonus. This kid plays with tremendous hustle, has a very high basketball IQ and possesses crazy versatility. Plus having a 7-5 wingspan is just freakish. I get the feeling he will be tons of fun to watch as a Tar Heel with a tinge of sadness knowing he will not be long for Chapel Hill.