Skip to content

At the crossroads of a career, is Marshall Henderson ready to make a change?

Jul 1, 2013, 4:29 PM EDT

La Salle v Ole Miss Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marshall Henderson was the leading scorer in the SEC, averaging 20.1 points, and was one of just 16 players to average more than 20 points last season. Erick Green of Virginia Tech was the only other player in that category to play for a team in one of the six power conferences. Henderson also set an SEC record by hitting 138 three-pointers while leading Ole Miss to their first NCAA tournament since 2002, as he won MVP honors as the Rebels took home the SEC tournament title.

All else aside, Marshall Henderson is a very, very good basketball player.

But no one knows who Henderson is because of what he is capable of doing with a basketball in his hands.

Instead, he became the most polarizing player in college hoops thanks to his on-court antics, his habits off the floor and his past run-ins with the law.

Some of it he can’t get away from. He was caught buying 57 grams of weed with $800 in counterfeit money back in May of 2009. He got probation for that charge, but eventually violated his probation when he tested positive for weed, cocaine and alcohol, landing him 25 days in jail. He flamed out at Utah — where he was dubbed the ‘villain of the Mountain West‘ in part for a punch he threw at BYU’s Jackson Emery — before landing Texas Tech, where he never he played a game. Henderson then spent a season at South Plains Junior College before winding up at Mississippi. Henderson was also kicked off of his high school team, which was coached by his father, as a senior after getting caught at a party with an open container.

Some of it Henderson brings on himself. He became a magnet for attention when a GIF his postgame gestures towards the student section after a win at Auburn went viral. He was then photographed on four different occasions with a drink in hand, one of which came at a bar at 3:30 in the afternoon in Kansas City the day after Ole Miss scored an upset over Wisconsin in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and a day before they were slated to play La Salle for the right to go to the Sweet 16.

“I kind of put myself on the map, as far as trying to get my name out there,” Henderson told NBCSports.com with a smile at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy.

This summer, Henderson has reached a crossroads in his basketball career.

He has a decision to make.

“Everyone knows who I am now.”

But who does Marshall Henderson want to be?

———————————————————————————–

Marshall Henderson is not a dumb kid.

It may not appear that way when he’s running up and down the court screaming at the crowd or when he’s heaving ice cubes into the stands on national television. He comes off as a lunatic, which isn’t necessarily incorrect. But Henderson gets it. He’s self-aware enough to realize that there is nothing that he can do to change the decisions that he’s made in his past, and he understands that those mistakes are the fuel that drives drunk freshmen in opposing student sections.

“People come and attack me, and I don’t even care,” Henderson said. “I know it’s going to happen and I can’t control what people say.”

And to hear Henderson and his coach Andy Kennedy tell it, he can’t control how he reacts to those taunts, either, because it’s the chip on Henderson’s shoulder — the motivation and determination that he derives from getting jeered — that makes him such a competitor. Henderson isn’t a showboat as much as he is passionately competitive to a fault, they say, and that taking that mentally away from him would cripple him as a player.

Some of that is coach-speak, I’ll admit, but there’s a valid point to be made there. One of the complaints that critics make about amateur hoops in America is that the AAU culture has taken away this generation’s competitive spirit. Playing seven or eight games every weekend in the spring and summer in an effort to gain exposure and improve one’s ranking on Rivals has made losing an acceptable by-product of individual success. Henderson cares about his points and his individual accolades, but he’s a fiery competitor, too.

Kennedy tries to channel that passion, but he doesn’t want to suffocate it. His teammates accept it because they see the work he puts in on a day-to-day basis.

“I believe [his intensity] comes from a good place because he’s a son of a coach, he’s grown up in a gym, he loves basketball,” Kennedy told NBCSports.com. “The reason that his teammates embraced it was that they saw it every day.”

“There’s very few who actually know what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Henderson said. “Those are my teammates, my coaches, my good friends.”

Henderson’s also one of the most entertaining players in the country. He’s the bizarro Jimmer Fredette. College basketball needs characters, and if Henderson’s role is that of the villain, he plays it to perfection. It may rub some people the wrong way, but I have no qualms with how he acts on the court.

Where Henderson needs to make a change is off the court.

In the grand scheme of things, the crimes that Henderson has committed are relatively minor. He used counterfeit money to try to buy weed. He violated his probation because he got drunk and high and did some coke. You wouldn’t want to see your daughter dating a guy like that, but he’s not Aaron Hernandez or Josh Brent.

At the end of the day, Henderson is living the dream of every frat boy across the country. He’s enjoying college the way that all of the moralizers on twitter enjoyed college. He pounds Coors Light, he plays beer pong, and he just so happens to be quite proficient at firing 25-footers with reckless abandon, only his games are on ESPN, not in campus intramural leagues.

I wish I could have lived my life like that in college.

“Many times I’m envious of maybe his free spirit,” Kennedy said, “because he seems to be having more fun than I am.”

But Henderson also has a senior season to worry about and a professional career to work towards, and that’s why he needs to make a change.

“Off the floor, he’s the lone senior on a team coming back from 27 wins,” Kennedy said, “and with that comes some responsibility. In year one, you’re trying to figure things out for yourself. In year two, as a senior, you’ve got to lead by your actions. And you’ve also got to be there for the younger guys, to mentor them along if our team’s going to have a chance to be successful.”

Henderson wants to play professionally after college. He thinks he has a shot of making an NBA roster, but for that to happen, he needs to shed the image of being an out-of-control college kid. If Allen Iverson and JR Smith have proven anything, it’s that there is a place for you in the NBA if you party hard if you’re talented enough. Marshall Henderson isn’t JR Smith, and he certainly isn’t Allen Iverson.

Is Henderson ready to make that change?

Maybe.

“All I can do is just focus, take it one day ahead and move on,” he said. “Just keep proving to people that yes, I was a dumbass, and I may have been more extreme than others, but you can’t change that, just go one day at a time.”

And maybe not.

“I think if anything it can help me. I can kind of, maybe not exactly change my ways, but it can seen as if I did. Just keep my nose clean for the meantime, and they can be like, ‘Oh, look, he matured.’”

It’s his choice to make.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Thon Maker’s guardian: It’s ‘not very likely’ that he will reclassify

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    Thon Maker is a top five recruit in 2016 and would be a top two or three recruit in 2015.

  2. Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg returns to practice, but not to recruiting

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Hoiberg had surgery to replace his pacemaker last week.

  3. Two new regular season college hoops events headed to Vegas

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    IjMOm5u

    The events will be played in November and December

  4. Kansas recruit Svi Mykhailiuk scores 19 in U18 Euro debut

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Mykhailiuk is playing in the B Division of the event.

  5. Las Vegas Wednesday Recap: Corey Sanders working to become a better leader

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    The final open period has begun, with Corey Sanders and Jalen Brunson among the standouts.

  6. USC Upstate assistant Kyle Perry promoted to associate head coach

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:59 PM EDT

    USC Upstate Athletics USC Upstate Athletics

    Perry’s been at USC Upstate since 2009, and among the players he’s helped recruit was former great Torrey Craig.

  7. Report: New Orleans lands graduate transfer Kevin Brown

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear, Kevin Brown AP

    Brown averaged 5.5 points per game and made 13 starts in 35 appearances for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

  8. Merv Lindsay is transferring from New Mexico

    Jul 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Lindsay played his freshman season at Kansas

  9. Malik Beasley looking to capitalize on a big spring, summer

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Beasley has been one of the nations top performers over the last three months

  10. Maker’s Mark releases a special ACC/Tom Jurich bottle (PHOTO)

    Jul 23, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    Louisville Athletics Louisville Athletics

    It’s the latest in a long line of bourbon bottles commemorating celebrities in the state.

  11. The Battle of the Pitinos may become an annual occurrence

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Richard Pitino

    Rick vs. Richard could get awkward for the rest of the family

  12. The latest allegations against Doug Wojcik involve a physical confrontation

    Jul 23, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Will this be enough for Charleston to finally get rid of their embattled head coach?

  13. Top 15 recruit Antonio Blakeney has made the ‘jump’ — literally — to elite status

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Blakeney is now on the radar of programs like Kentucky and Louisville.

  14. Time lapse of Iowa State’s refurbished court (VIDEO)

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.26.42 AM

    Iowa State repainted their court.

  15. Is the College of Charleston close to making a decision on head coach Doug Wojcik?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Doug Wojcik AP

    The College of Charleston Board of Trustees meets on Wednesday.

  16. Iowa State forward Jameel McKay denied wavier, eligible to play in December

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Fred Hoiberg

    The transfer forward will miss the first nine games of the season.

  17. Highlights from the 2014 Nike EYBL Peach Jam (VIDEO)

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Seven minutes of highlights from this past weekend’s Nike Peach Jam.

  18. Northern Kentucky eligible for the 2015 Atlantic Sun tournament

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    Dave Bezold Dave Bezold

    But they aren’t yet eligible for the NCAA tournament. Click to see why.

  19. Isaiah Austin has a job with the NBA once he finishes degree at Baylor

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Isaiah Austin Isaiah Austin

    Isaiah Austin is returning to Baylor. Once he gets his degree, he’ll have a job with the NBA.