Here Comes John Henson
For the first third of the 2012-13 NBA season, Milwaukee Bucks rookie big man John Henson was a virtual nobody—just a big body with a baby face shoved to the back of a Bucks bench that doesn’t get a whole lot of media attention in the first place.
Perhaps that’s why his recent progression has gone so largely unnoticed. Over the course of the last three games, Henson has averaged 12.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per night while playing only about 25 minutes per game. He has also contributed five blocks and four steals over that three-game stretch, and it’s starting to get to the point where head coach Scott Skiles has no choice but keep him on the floor.
“His NBA talent is obvious any time you see him play,” Skiles said. “It’s just a matter of getting everything down and getting a comfort level with himself. He’s worked harder. He’s put himself in a position to get some court time. We’ll keep playing him… and we’ll see if he can’t keep stringing them together.”
Henson himself is painfully modest about his recent outburst, and he admits that 30 games on the bench wasn’t necessarily a fun experience, but it was one in which he learned a lot about how to be the kind of NBA player he appears to be blossoming into.
“I think it’s just figuring out what to do—how to get the right rest, eat the right things, travel, get your feet under you,” Henson said. “That’s helped me out because I finally got caught up to what I needed to be doing. It took 30 games, but I finally figured out what I need to be doing, how I need to approach the game at this level.”
Those changes in habits have helped, but playing for Skiles means playing for a guy that tends to ride the hot hand a little, and Henson has taken advantage of some opportunities born from foul trouble and injuries to guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Now that Skiles has seen what he can do, though, it’s hard to imagine Henson reverting to once again playing just seven to 10 minutes a game.
“[Skiles] does that. He’s always playing the best, whether is the 10th guy or the first guy,” Henson said.“I’ve just got to do something consistent, keep at it and keep working. Eventually everything will fall into place. I’m trying to be consistent with everything, and it’s working for me right now.”
It’s consistency that rookies tend to struggle with, however, so finding out how to put up these great numbers on an everyday basis is the challenge Henson knows he has to overcome.
“We’ve got 50-something-plus games left, so I think it’s going to be tough as it for a rookie. It always is, but I’ve got my feet under me now, my legs feel good and I’ve played thirty games, which most people can’t say,” Henson said, admitting that it’s been a long wait for the opportunity, but now that he’s here he feels rested, confident and grateful for his situation.
“You are doing a sport that you love everyday of your life,” Henson said, beaming. “I always tell people the easiest part is playing; it’s just the preparation and getting ready to play that’s the hard part. Tonight those 48 minutes are the best part of this job and those are the things I try to keep in my head.”
The things he’s doing on the court are pretty respectable lately, too, and the Bucks, who have sorely underperformed of late, particularly on the road, could certainly use a boost from their talented lottery pick. If the rest of the year is anything like the last three games, that boost is well on its way.