Emotional Rebel guard visits O'Dome
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.
Any time you have a big game on a basketball court, there is going to be talk of match-ups. Some of them will present themselves over the course of the game, some will turn out to be meaningless hype.
But there is one matchup tonight that I'm looking forward to seeing — Marshall Henderson vs. the Rowdy Reptiles.
By now you have likely heard about Henderson, even though it's very doubtful you had heard of him three weeks ago. He literally has exploded onto the college basketball landscape with the subtlety of a Ray Lewis intro.
In many ways, he is exactly what the SEC needs — some attention. When it comes to basketball, this conference has been run over, scraped off the road and chunked into a dumpster.
It's not just the quality of the teams. There isn't a lot of star power in the SEC this year. The best team in the league is the best team in the league because it's the best TEAM in the league. Florida has been so dominant because there is no head of the snake to kill.
Kentucky has Nerlens Noel, who will likely be a top-five NBA Draft pick, and some first-rounders who will be selected more on what they will do than what they are doing. The bottom line — who in this league makes you want to make sure you're in front of the TV when he plays?
Well, Henderson would be that guy but not for all the right reasons.
In fact, it has been a tough week for the Ole Miss guard.
*He was criticized by SI.com's Seth Davis, one of the best basketball writers in the business, for taunting Auburn's student section after Henderson made two free throws to beat the Tigers. “I have no doubt that Henderson has many more winning moments in his future,” Davis wrote. “Here's hoping that when they arrive, he chooses to act like a winner.”
*He was hammered on ESPN's talk shows “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption” for throwing ice back into the stands and acting like a spoiled 10-year-old in a loss to Kentucky.
*USA Today revealed Henderson served a 35-day sentence last spring for violating his probation by testing positive for cocaine. He had been arrested in 2011 for misdemeanor marijuana possession and in 2009 for trying to buy marijuana with counterfeit money.
So if you wanted to get noticed, Marshall my man, consider it done.
Henderson leads the league in scoring and tantrums. The thing is, you know a bunch of guys just like Henderson. You play with them at the gym or the court down the street. They are full of confidence and emotion, and you like it when they are on your team and you foul them a little harder when they are not. You know that guy who sits next to you at the game who never shuts up and is full of energy and bounces all over the place during the games? That's Marshall Henderson, a fan who somehow got loose on the court.
Guys with Henderson's personality are everywhere, but it's rare that they can shoot like he can. Tennessee found out when he dropped 60 points on the Vols in two games. In Knoxville, he chided Tennessee fans who were leaving to hang around and watch him go past the 20-point mark. Which he did.
The guy is fearless on the court and will take a shot from anywhere. And he's one of those players who surprises you when he misses. And yet, he misses a lot more than he makes. Especially lately.
Henderson has made only six of 24 shots in his last two games. But he's a chucker so the shots keep coming. Henderson has averaged 11 3-point tries a game this season. And with Ole Miss at 17-3 this season, the Rebels aren't complaining.
The 6-foot-2 guard, who started at Utah (where he was suspended a game for punching an opponent), went to Texas Tech for an hour and then to a junior college in Texas, now faces the league's best defense. I've talked to people in the game who I respect, who think this is Florida's best defense ever. And we all know that the students like to try to get under the skin of the best players on the other team.
So it should be fun.
One thing, Reptiles. You stay classy.