There is a strange situation brewing in Rock Hill, South Carolina as academic seniors Derrick Henry and James Bourne have left the program with a year of eligibility left. The news became official this weekend with a press release and the following statement from head coach Pat Kelsey:
"I would like to thank James and Derrick for their contributions to our basketball program and wish them luck in their future endeavors upon graduation in May. Thanks to their Winthrop degrees, both of these young men have extremely bright futures. Derrick and James accepted and embraced roles defined by a new coaching staff during their career, and helped the program reach back-to-back Big South Championship games. They contributed significantly to the culture that we take pride in today within our program."
On the surface this story doesn't seem to be this odd but if you've been following along on the Eagles' unofficial fansite, WinthropFans.com, then it gets a little bizarre. Basically on of the boards contributors claimed several days ago that both Bourne and Henry were forced to leave the program after Kelsey did not renew their scholarship heading into their final year of eligibility. The same contributor claimed the same for Winthrop's Larry Brown. There is speculation that Brown was able to avoid Kelsey's axe because he hired legal representation to fight the third year head coach.
I caution that this is just message board chatter and we all know the toxic stew that can come from some of those fan communities. This story has seemed to have legs from the beginning and it will be interesting to see how it effects the Eagles locker room.
Winthrop was thought to be the preseason favorite in the Big South this upcoming season after back-to-back trips to the conference championship. Henry appeared in every game for the Eagles this past year posting 4.4 points per game. He averaged over 11 points per season his sophomore year but sat out the 2013-14 season due to injury. Bourne missed this past season due to injury and averaged nearly 5 points and 4 rebounds per game as a junior.
The Eagles will still have a strong frontcourt with future sophomores Xavier Cooks and Joseph Lopez. Former Missouri and Louisville big man Zach Price will also make his debut this upcoming season.