- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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As Memphis scrapes to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, this would seem a peculiar time for the Tigers to part ways with a player who has started in 16 of 23 games.
Yet coach Josh Pastner announced on Monday that, with just eight regular-season games left to play, senior forward Pierre Henderson-Niles has left the team.
Pastner insisted that Henderson-Niles had done nothing wrong and that the decision was nothing more than a mutual parting of ways.
"This is nothing negative. He didn't do anything against the law or anything like that," Pastner told ESPN.com on Monday night. "I like the young man. I have a soft spot for him. It was just at this point, we both agree it's time to go forward."
Henderson-Niles averaged 5.2 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Tigers but his minutes had dipped slightly in the last few weeks. After hovering closer to the 20-minutes-per-game range, Henderson-Niles hadn't played more than 15 in his last four games.
After Memphis' stunning loss to SMU -- a game in which he did not score and had two rebounds in 13 minutes -- a frustrated Henderson-Niles posted on his Facebook, "Wanna give dis [stuff] up after yesterday."
Pastner insisted that Henderson-Niles leaves with no ill will and is on schedule to graduate in May.
But the coach did say that losing Henderson-Niles hurts the team. Memphis already has been playing the season shorthanded, with players transferring and decommitting after John Calipari left for Kentucky in April. Henderson-Niles' decision leaves the Tigers with only seven scholarship players for the stretch run.
"There's no question it puts us in a bind," Pastner said. "I don't like losing anybody, but it's what we've got to deal with. We've got to do what we've got to do."
Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com.