Henderson expounds on hoops, life
by Steve Wieberg, Special for USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – “What up, y’all?”
Music off, headphones removed, Marshall Henderson plopped into a metal folding chair in Mississippi’s locker room Thursday and greeted the mass of media gathered for his first NCAA tournament.
Top-seeded Kansas is here. North Carolina’s Roy Williams, too, returned to the area where he spent the first 15 years of his Hall of Fame coaching career. But sharing the marquee is a slight 22-year-old from Texas, grown more famous by the week for his scoring explosiveness and matching, unrestrained personality.
“Where I’ve been – and it had been tough – I wanted to get to a stage like this so bad,” Henderson said. “Because I knew I was good enough to do it. I was just waiting for the right chance. Coach (Andy) Kennedy gave me that chance, and now we’re in Kansas City and we know, if we get two wins, we’re in Los Angeles in the Staples Center.”
Brighter lights. Bigger cities. He was made for this.
Henderson torched three opponents in the Southeastern Conference tournament last weekend, hitting 10 of Mississippi’s 13 three-pointers, averaging 23.7 points and earning MVP honors as the Rebels nailed down their first NCAA appearance since 2002. Impressive as the performance was, it was nearly overshadowed by his theatrics, from his mocking Gator chomps to his ridicule of SEC coaches for failing to vote him to their all-conference first team.
When the team went through media interviews Thursday, a day before Mississippi’s NCAA opener against No. 5-seeded Wisconsin, wary school officials chose to keep him in the dressing room and away from the formal, microphoned setting of the Rebels’ formal press conference.
Henderson, who has endured legal troubles off the court and now is playing for his fourth school, still drew a crowd. He was controlled … though hardly sheepish.
On whether he embraces the role of villain: “I guess so. I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
On starting down that path while playing AAU ball: “That kind of got me into, like, … [For more on Mouth of Mississippi: Henderson expounds on hoops, life, click here.]