SALT LAKE CITY — Marshall Henderson's first season with the Utah Utes will be his last. The freshman guard from Texas, who was Utah's second-leading scorer last season with 11.8 points per game, has officially left the program.
"My decision to leave Utah is not related to basketball. I want to be closer to home," Henderson said in a prepared statement. "Coach (Jim) Boylen's program also has certain rules and restrictions that I respect, but I don't feel they fit with my individualism. This is not about the coaches, the system or the players."
Henderson, however, is the fourth member of the team to ask for and receive a release from the program since a disappointing 14-17 season came to an end. The others were top scorer Carlon Brown (12.8 ppg), and reserves Jordan Cyphers (2.9 ppg) and Matt Read (1.8 ppg).
"Every situation has been a little different, and at least one was based on personal reasons outside of basketball," Boylen said in confirming Henderson's departure. "But I understand how difficult it has been on our fans that some players have left the team."
The departures, along with the graduation losses of Luka Drca (10 ppg) and Kim Tillie (7 ppg), leave senior forward Jay Watkins (9.2 ppg) and junior center David Foster (4.7 ppg) as the top returnees on a Utah squad that went 7-9 in Mountain West Conference play. Foster is the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Others returning to the fold include swingman Shawn Glover (3.4 ppg), center Jason Washburn (5 ppg), guard/forward Jace Tavita (1.4 ppg) and guard Tre Smith (1.3 ppg).
"I have complete confidence in our returning players. We are also very excited about our recruits and they are excited about playing for Utah," Boylen said in a prepared announcement. "The guys are eager to play together. They understand their roles and that they will be held accountable to the standards of this program, both on and off the floor.
"My goal and my responsibility is to get this team playing 'Utah basketball,' and I look forward to leading the charge. I am confident that next year's team will improve and be successful," he continued.
The Utes added four high school recruits during the early signing period — guard Preston Guiot (Bolivar H.S., Mo.), guard Dominique Lee (St. Mary's College H.S., Calif.), center Neil Monson (Waterford H.S.) and guard J.J. O'Brien (Alta Loma H.S., Calif.) — and picked up a verbal commitment from highly touted Casper College (Wyo.) forward Antonio DiMaria. The latter is expected to make it official when the regular signing period opens on Wednesday. Utah also may sign a couple of other players during that time.
Including DiMaria, the prep signees and sophomore guard Chris Hines (3.2 ppg), who is still a member of the team despite reports to the contrary, the Utah basketball team will have a minimum of 14 players in the program. The total includes seldom-used seniors Ricky Shoff and Austin Robison.