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Names In The Game

November 5, 1996

TORONTO (AP) _ Three weeks ago, Darby Hendrickson was in hockey limbo, skating by himself at a Minneapolis high school and making passes to imaginary linemates.

Tonight, the 24-year-old forward will likely be in Toronto’s lineup when the Maple Leafs take on the St. Louis Blues.

Hendrickson left the New York Islanders in September.

``I didn’t know where or when I was going to be playing again,″ he said. ``But here I am back where I want to be. I’ve gone full circle.″

This is Hendrickson’s second stint in Toronto.

He was part of the trade with the Islanders last March that sent Kenny Jonsson, Sean Haggerty and a 1997 first-round draft pick to New York for Wendel Clark, Mathieu Schneider and D.J. Smith.

At the time, Hendrickson convinced himself that going to a young team would be a good opportunity. But things turned odd over the summer.

Hendrickson, through a misunderstanding, lack of communication or bad advice, arrived at camp without a contract. On July 1, he was offered a one-year deal for $300,000. He could have accepted the contract or requested salary arbitration, but unclear about his own free-agency status, Hendrickson did neither.

The Isles’ offer expired and the deadline to file for arbitration passed. But, still thinking his contract was in place, Hendrickson attended training camp. The Islanders refused to play him in exhibition games. Eleven days into camp, Hendrickson departed.

``We weren’t able to work anything out,″ Hendrickson said. ``I qualified for arbitration but we missed (the opportunity) on my side.

``Then things just dragged on too long. I guess that’s the ugly side of the game.″

Hendrickson blames nobody for the mixup but has a new agent and apparently holds no grudges towards the Islanders. He was traded back to Toronto on Oct. 11 for a fifth- or sixth-round pick in the 1998 entry draft.

``This is where my heart is,″ he said Monday after his first practice with the Leafs. ``This is where I want to play.

``I just have a lot of pride in the Toronto Maple Leafs. I admire the whole history, the management, the players, the captain and the whole attitude here.

``I’m ready. I’m pumped. It feels a little strange but I’m so glad to be back.″


LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) _ Texas Tech fullback Sammy Morris won’t play again this season because of academic problems, the school announced Monday, nine days after he scored the winning touchdown against Texas A&M.

Morris, a redshirt freshman from San Antonio Jay, had pleasantly surprised Texas Tech with his rapid development this fall in a position considered a question mark coming into the season.

``I am disappointed that Sammy no longer is on our football team,″ coach Spike Dykes said in a statement. ``I wish him well. I hope he gets a chance to join us next fall.″

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal had reported last week that Morris possibly had failed to properly attend the school’s ``XL″ study-aid program. Lubbock attorney Floyd Holder had threatened to sue on Morris’ behalf, but Morris indicated Monday he would accept his dismissal from the team.

``I regret not being able to finish the season with my teammates,″ said Morris, who rushed for 226 yards on just 29 carries and caught 13 passes for 221 yards. ``I’m planning to work toward getting back on track, getting my academics in order and getting my college degree. Hopefully I can use this experience to grow as a person.″


TORONTO (AP) _ For a change, someone else is taking Benoit Benjamin’s spot in the coach’s doghouse.

Benjamin, who has had a mostly disappointing 11-year NBA career with seven different teams, will start at center tonight in place of Sharone Wright when the Toronto Raptors play the Dallas Mavericks.

Raptors coach Darrell Walker made the change because of Wright’s attitude.

``I’d like for him to show some emotion, some fire when he’s out there on the court,″ Walker said Monday. ``I’ve talked to Sharone plenty of times.

``He knows I want him to rebound and set picks. I know he can score. But we need to get somebody to get us off to a good start rebounding. Teams have been playing volleyball against us.″

Carlos Rogers and Marcus Camby have supplanted Wright as the first frontcourt players off the bench.

The Raptors (0-2) have been outrebounded 95-71 by the Knicks and Hornets, who have gone to the free-throw line 84 times compared to 53 for Toronto.

Wright started at center in seven preseason games. But he got only four minutes of playing time against Charlotte on Saturday after receiving 19 minutes against the Knicks last Friday. He has been bothered by a sore back, which has left him tentative on offense. He bristled when told of Walker’s call for some emotion.

``I don’t understand that,″ said Wright, who averaged 16.5 points for the first-year Raptors after coming over in a mid-season trade with Philadelphia. ``Darrell knows I’ve got a nagging injury.

``To say he wants more emotion, I don’t know. I was intending to ask Darrell what it was I was doing wrong. I came in, scored some points, but I didn’t stay in the game long.

``We have a pressing defense now and I’ve never done that before. It’s hard for me to grasp it. Even in high school I’ve never done that.

``But no excuses. Obviously, I’m doing something that Darrell doesn’t like.

``If this were a couple of years ago I probably would have got all crazy about it. Now I understand. Once I get totally healthy, I’m going to show them all.″

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