Down in the Southeastern Conference, one player has grabbed nearly every headline. It isn’t someone from the bluegrass state, nor from newcomer Missouri, or even Florida, the conference’s only top 10 team. Although playing at high levels, none of these teams have quite a player like the Ole Miss Rebels’ Marshall Henderson.
Henderson has been around for quite sometime now, as he began his collegiate basketball career far from Mississippi, all the way in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. As a freshman for the Utes, Henderson averaged 11.8 points per game.
Then he had some controversy during his lone year at Utah (the Utes suspended Henderson for one game after fighting during a loss to BYU, according to an AP release on April 7, 2010). But in the same press release, Henderson is cited to leaving the Utah program for two reasons—he felt a lack of “individualism” under Utah’s head coach Jim Boylen, and he wanted to play closer to his home state of Texas.
At 6’2”, Henderson doesn’t have killer speed or athleticism. He doesn’t create many assists, or control many rebounds, and is a gunner in every sense of the word. He shoots awful shots at times from the outside and he has the tenacity to take plays off on defense, but his overall spirit, drive and persona make him one of the more loved, but at the same time hated players in all of college basketball.
Back in high school, police arrested Henderson for trying to buy 59 grams of marijuana with counterfeit money and he served 25 days in jail, according to Deadspin.com. But here is a player that once scored over 50 points in a high school game, and according to Olemisssports.com, finished his high school career with a ridiculous 2,829 points.
Henderson’s uniqueness had always been a problem. In the same Deadspin story, it is said that Henderson played basketball for his dad in high school, and it had been the “freakin’ miserable” experience that prompted Henderson to leave his parents’ house when he turned 18. After leaving Utah, Henderson opted for Texas Tech, but that didn’t last long after the Red Raiders fired head coach Pat Knight so he left before he even suiting up for a game.
This left Henderson playing for a junior college in Levelland, Texas where he simply dominated for South Plains College. Henderson’s player of the year season helped lead South Plains College to an undefeated season, an NCJAA championship and a commitment to Ole Miss.
Now, under coach Adam Kennedy, Henderson has brought life back into an Ole Miss program that hasn’t grabbed the national spotlight in quite some time.
Despite a setback home loss to Kentucky on Tuesday, the Rebels are a team capable of competing and winning the ever-entertaining SEC. Ole Miss gets a shot at Florida later today, and the Rebels need Henderson to continue his 19.2 points per game season.
The biggest thing about Henderson is that he isn’t afraid of being himself. In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, the ever-candid Henderson expressed questions regarding his energetic, jersey-showing, emotion after game-winning free throws at Auburn and a 35-foot buzzer beater to send a game into overtime at Vanderbilt.
“That’s not really me reacting,” said Henderson in the Herald-Leader story. “That’s like my heart and soul coming out of me. All the work I put in to finally be successful on a great team.”
Maybe Henderson finally is maturing from a tunnel vision teenager to an adult who will fight for a teams. He will admittedly always be a gunner who puts up many shots a game. But for Ole Miss, Henderson is much more than that.
Only eight Ole Miss players have played in the NBA or ABA, and Johnny Neumann is the only Rebel to average over 10 points per game in his career.
The Rebels are getting national exposure and at 19-3 are in perfect position to make its first NCAA tournament since 2002 when they faced UCLA. (Fun fact about that UCLA squad, Matt Barnes, Jason Kapono and Dan Gadzuric started for that team, so you can guess how Ole Miss fared).
Henderson’s only a junior, good for Ole Miss, bad for the rest of the SEC.