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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2007
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Alabama basketball player Richard Hendrix says it’s extremely important to him to graduate from college, like everyone else in his family, including sister Leslie Hendrix Bruinton, right, who is a reporter for WIAT-TV, the CBS affiliate in Birmingham. He says he is on pace to earn his degree after three years of school.
Photo courtesy of Becky Hopf
Alabama basketball player Richard Hendrix says it’s extremely important to him to graduate from college, like everyone else in his family, including sister Leslie Hendrix Bruinton, right, who is a reporter for WIAT-TV, the CBS affiliate in Birmingham. He says he is on pace to earn his degree after three years of school.

The education of Richard Hendrix
Graduating like family members did is top goal for Bama star

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — The day following a 22-point, 10-rebound performance in a come-from-behind 79-78 victory over Mississippi State, Alabama’s Richard Hendrix is not celebrating.

Instead, the Athens High graduate is hoping not to get a parking ticket.

“I don’t have one of those stickers,” Hendrix says Thursday morning as he navigates his Chevy truck on his way to his 8 a.m. class. “So I have to find a place to park and hope that I don’t have a ticket after class.”

Such is the life of a Division I basketball star. Following a week-night game, Hendrix meets with reporters to answer questions, then goes home and gets ready for a full day of class and practice the next day.

While figuring out the Bulldogs’ defense, blocking shots and rebounding, Hendrix was also trying to remember crime patterns for his criminology test about 14 hours after the game ended.

“It’s time to learn a little,” Hendrix shrugs on his way to his morning computer science class.

First, he picks up teammate Jermareo Davidson, who is also in the class.

They joke around about ESPN’s highlight selection from the previous night’s game, but little time is wasted discussing basketball.

When asked whether by being on the basketball team he sticks out, the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Hendrix says, “No, not really.”

But as he and Davidson get ready to walk into the classroom building, some fans — or students or both — driving along in their truck scream from the road, “Hey Jermareo, Richard ... ROLL TIDE!”

Both players just laugh.

Hendrix is not the first person in the class, but he isn’t the last either.

He is right on time.

As he rustles to get his papers out, his professor walks up to him and says, “I’m too old to wait until the last minute. Stretch it out by 20 points,” in reference to Alabama 79-78 last-second win.

“She always likes the bust our chops a little,” Hendrix says.

Hendrix sits in the middle of the row on the aisle, while Davidson moves to the front.

According to Hendrix, the air conditioning vent blows cool air towards his particular area, and Davidson, who stands 6-10, cannot hide from the chilly breeze.

As students continue to file in, the professor sends around an attendance sheet, which may be worth something some day. How many pieces of paper have the signatures of two potential NBA first-round picks?

The instructor goes over image maps and Web site linking. Hendrix takes notes and at times seems one step ahead of her, answering her questions underneath his breath.

The Crimson Tide won the previous night, so Hendrix won’t hear the “What happened?” query, his least favorite and the one he hears the most following a defeat.

“That’s the one question I can’t stand,” Hendrix says. “If you watched the game at the end and you ask the athlete what happened? It’s like, ‘Were you not paying attention? We lost!’ ”

Following games, Alabama basketball player Richard Hendrix spends time answering questions from reporters.
Photo courtesy of Becky Hopf
Following games, Alabama basketball player Richard Hendrix spends time answering questions from reporters.
There have been times when he hasn’t felt like getting up early and making the trek. Last season, after losing a road game, he had an exam at 8 a.m., which he says he passed.

“This is the side people don’t see,” Hendrix said. “Some think we play sports all the time, but we’re in college, too.”

Hendrix’s father, Venard, the Athens High boys basketball coach, echoes his son’s sentiments. College is a balancing act if you’re on a varsity team.

“From my standpoint, it takes an exceptional person to be a student athlete because it’s so demanding,” Venard says. “They’re not just students. They have practice time, plus they have to study. They’re going to be gone for extended periods of time. It’s very demanding.”

While dreams of the NBA dance in Richard’s head, a degree is his No. 1 goal. His entire family has graduated from college, and with his heavy summer load, Richard is on pace to graduate in three years.

“It’s important to me,” Richard says. “It’s not one of those things that (my parents) always stressed to me. It’s just something that happened. My sisters, everyone has graduated from college, which is something I want to do. It’s something you’re supposed to do.”

But after the previous night’s victory, what could make the day sweeter? Not having another ticket on the car.

Walking out of his class, Hendrix eyes his truck and sees no sheet of paper on the window.

What a 24 hours. Richard Hendrix defeats Mississippi State and the University of Alabama’s transportation/parking services. Not bad for a 20-year-old college student.

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