Henderson, as always, is the lightning rod
Ole Miss sharpshooter Marshall Henderson is basketball’s version of a lightning rod. He knows it. He revels in it.
He’s a sports writer’s dream, a walking, trash-talking story waiting to happen. You never know what’s coming next but you know it’s going to be different.
One regret of my first basketball season out of the newspaper business has been not getting to cover Henderson and write columns about him on a regular basis. In fact, I never met him until we both sat at the head table of the C Spire Howell/Gillom Trophy awards luncheon.
I didn’t know what to expect. With Henderson, you never know what to expect. Henderson couldn’t have been nicer or more gentlemanly. He handled himself exceedingly well.
He doesn’t always, which must exasperate his coach, Andy Kennedy, no end.
Kennedy brought the house down during the C Spire Howell/Gillom luncheon when talking about Henderson.
“Marshall starts out at Utah, transfers and goes to Texas Tech. … both those coaches got fired,” Kennedy cracked at the ceremony. “I think sometimes with his shot selection he is going for the triple crown — three for three. It’s going to be awfully close.”
It’s not now. Henderson and his teammates made sure of that in the SEC Tournament.
Still, Henderson’s lightning rod aspect can scarcely be overstated. From reading accounts around the country, you wouldn’t think Wisconsin will play Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament Friday. No, you would think the Badgers are to play the Marshall Hendersons.
I looked at the Madison newspaper online this morning. One story was about how Wisconsin players won’t pay attention to Henderson’s trash talking and how Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan would never let his players get away with Henderson’s antics. And get this: Still another story had to do with a 93-year-old female Wisconsin fan, who has canceled her Friday morning hair appointment so she can watch her Badgers shut up Henderson. She vows to dance afterward.
And so it goes…
My take: Ole Miss’s chances against Wisconsin hinge mightily on Henderson’s play. Against Ryan’s plodding, slow-down style of play, each possession becomes especially critical. The Rebels can’t afford wasted possessions, turnovers or bad shots.
In other words, Ole Miss needs the Marshall Henderson who played against LSU in the last regular season game, taking good shots and passing out of double-teams, and not the Marshall Henderson who took — and missed — nearly every shot imaginable a week or so earlier against State at Starkville.
Ole Miss also will need a big game from Murphy Holloway, the other Ole Miss finalist for the Howell Trophy.
Holloway, the school’s all-time leading rebounder and the SEC’s leading rebounder this season, averaged darn near a double-double. As I said during the C Spire ceremony, “If war breaks out in this room, Murphy Holloway is the guy I want in my foxhole.”
I love his hustle, his willingness to do the dirty work, plus the fact he makes well over half the shots he takes. He topped the 1,000 mark in both points and rebounds at Ole Miss.
At the end of the Howell ceremony I turned to the three finalists: Henderson, Holloway and USM’s Dwayne Davis. My message: “You’ve still got important games to play. Make us proud.”
All three have. And all still have more games to play.