Is John Henson Stronger Than He Looks?
If John Henson, the three-year North Carolina product, opened his June calendar for the viewing public to see, one wouldn’t see many free days. In the weeks leading to the 2012 NBA Draft (set for June 28th), he has countless workouts scheduled with NBA teams; in fact, he’s already worked out for the New Orleans Hornets. In between the pressure of trying to impress teams in their home cities, he also attended the annual NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
HOOPSWORLD had a chance to talk to the in-demand power forward, projected to go in the 7-to-15 range, at the Combine. Hopefully he’s rested, because his upcoming schedule is intense.
“I’m going straight from here to Sacramento,” Henson said. “I’ll do all the west coast teams from Portland to Phoenix to Golden State. I fly to Houston, a couple days off, then the east coast to Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia and Detroit. (Then) it’s time for the draft, so it’s going to be a long, long trip.”
The above group of teams represents draft picks from fifth to fifteenth. Henson was candid in saying it matters where he lands in the draft.
“I think it’s very important. I think the right situation can mean the difference between an okay career and a great career,” he said. “Just from talking to everyone, there’s been a lot of trade talk and stuff, so I feel like this draft is wide open for everyone.”
In 109 career games at North Carolina, Henson averaged 10.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. His free-throw shooting is downright dismal; he never exceeded over .500 percentage at the charity stripe during any college season.
He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year – UNC’s first player to nab the prestigious award – in his sophomore and junior years, recording 37 double-doubles in 72 games during both seasons. Last year, he led the conference in rebounding and blocked shots.
“I think I improved every year which (is) what you want to do, and just maturing mentally and physically is something that I needed to do,” said Henson. “It took me probably a little bit more time than other guys, but it’s a process. I’m here now, so I’m ready to take it to the next level.”
Some would argue Henson is one of the more mature young draft prospects this year. His decision to forgo the NBA draft after his sophomore year and stay in school was about personal growth and concentrating on getting stronger.
While Henson has an enviable skill set – rebounding, blocking and defending – that will undoubtedly translate to the NBA, the consensus drawback is his strength. He managed to add over thirty pounds from his freshman year to his junior year, but the fear is that his slight frame can’t improve to the level required in professional ball.
“Basketball is about strength,” he explained. “If you can get out there and you hold your own and you play well – I care so much about it – I do say I’m stronger than I look, and I hope I can prove that, too.
“I think I showed (at the Combine) that I’m not getting thrown around down there. That’s something that people might think that might happen, but I don’t think it will.”
At the Combine, he weighed in at 216 pounds and measured 6’10.5” with shoes. He has a terrific 7’5” wingspan, and most impressive is his standing reach of 9’3.5”, which was tied with Kyle O’Quinn for best among the draft prospects.
Henson is less concerned with identifying an ideal weight; he’s more about developing into a stronger player.
“You just want to keep improving and keep getting stronger and bigger,” said the 21-year-old player. “I don’t think people hit their full physical maturity until around 25, 26 years old. I’ve got a while to go before that happens, so try to keep improving and keep getting better.”
His offensive game is another concern, but Henson is ready to prove the doubters wrong.
“I think with the system in North Carolina…within the system, you had to find your glitch, that’s why we were so good, because everyone just kind of fell in line,” Henson told us. “But you have to have offensive skills and stuff. I’m not here just to say I can anyone on one-on-one, but I think my offense can get better.”
Teams will love Henson’s incredible length and aggressive running. They will appreciate his work ethic and the way he impacts the game without the ball in his hands. His potential to immediately contribute is real.
One of Henson’s more unique attributes is the fact he’s ambidextrous. His trademark left-handed hook shot wowed Tar Heel fans, especially since Henson is right-handed.
HOOPSWORLD’s most recent mock draft shows Henson being drafted 15th to the Sixers. A lot is riding on how he performs in his scheduled team workouts. He could go as high as number five to Sacramento, a team who needs a player of his caliber. Detroit (with the ninth pick) has scheduled a workout with Henson just three days before the draft and they definitely are in the market for an athletic interior defender as well.