The Washington Times - January 24, 2009, 09:39AM

Gerald Henderson might just be the rarest of species on college basketball.

An underrated player wearing a Duke uniform.


Indeed, it is hard to fathom given how much the Blue Devils are splashed across the national landscape.  But Henderson is a vital reason Duke is 17-1.

So all these things granted, Maryland coach Gary Williams might have had a little hyperbole when describing the junior.

“They also have a player in Henderson —- it’s kind of funny when they put up on the screen in any national TV game they list the player of the year candidates, and Henderson should be a player of the year candidate,” Williams said. “He’s done a great job for Duke in a lot of areas and he currently is playing for the No. 2 team in the country. He’s been very beneficial to what he’s given them as a rebounder, as a guy who can score inside, as a guy who’s a better shooter this year and as another ballhandler they can put out on the court.”

This ignores two realities.

One (and this is a personal favorite), just because a good player plays for a good team doesn’t mean that guy is automatically a player of the year candidate.

It is possible, perish the thought, for the best player to play for a bottom-of-the-top-25 team —- or worse.

Two, even if Henderson belongs in the player of the year discussion, so does Blake Griffin.

And Luke Harangody. And Stephen Curry. And Tyler Hansbrough. And James Harden. And Jodie Meeks.

Oh, wait, forgot to mention Jeff Teague. And Terrence Williams. And even Henderson’s teammate, Kyle Singler.

Not to mention a few others who can make a credible case for inclusion.

So, yes, Henderson is really good. And valuable. And probably underrated, somehow, and as a result probably worth some consideration as a second- or third-team All-American.

But a legitimate player of the year?

That’s going to take a little more work.

—- Patrick Stevens