COLUMN: KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Regardless of what happens today in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Marshall Henderson experience has paid off for the Ole Miss Rebels. Don’t believe me? Well, the media covering this weekend’s Kansas City Regional couldn’t wait to quote Henderson, Ole Miss’ leading scorer, when the locker room opened prior to Thursday’s practice session at the Sprint Center.
A lot of the attention is based on Henderson’s antics during and after games as much as it is his shooting or scoring abilities. The popping of his shirt at Auburn and the gator chomp he did during last week’s game with Florida in the SEC Tournament have made him the target of the national media. They love to see what they can get out of him, or better put, goad him into saying. Sound bites and one liners are rich for those that do TV or blogs.
Henderson was on his best behavior during his time with the media Thursday. He had a few tasty comments but nothing that resembles bulletin board material or anything we haven’t already printed locally.
What the media that isn’t around Henderson every day doesn’t get is how loved he is by his coach, Andy Kennedy, and his teammates, such as senior leader Nick Williams.
Henderson’s passion fuels them and as Williams put it so well, he hopes that the fans continue to stir the pot by yelling at him because it only makes Henderson play better which, in turn, helps the team play with energy.
“People don’t understand when we get to the game 30 minutes prior and the crowd is there and talking trash to him, that helps us. So please keep doing. Everybody who is in the crowd, please talk to Marshall. Tell him he sucks, I’m begging you. That’s why you don’t see him getting technical fouls or anything because he’s usually doing it to the crowd. So please keep doing it,” Williams said. “His energy usually helps us out. When we’re struggling at times and he comes down and makes a crazy shot and you see that look in his eye, he gives you that jolt of energy. He’s great for our team, he’s great for our chemistry. We love it.”
Kennedy was asked about Henderson for the 1,000th time as well Thursday. Kennedy responded to the quote from his star shooter that he would be an idiot not to come to Ole Miss.
“I’ve called him an idiot a few times, but I’m not sure I used in my recruiting speech,” Kennedy said. “He’s probably called me one a few times as well, though.”
Henderson also remembered Kennedy saying that if he came to Ole Miss, the Rebels would make the NCAA Tournament.
“I think I’ve told them all that,” Kennedy deadpanned. “What I did say was I thought we had a great opportunity for him because he’s a tremendous player.
“What I didn’t know was it was going to be the circus it’s turned in to. Even I was a little naive to that but I knew he was going to have the impact that he did, I really did. I knew he played for a coach that was crazy enough to let him shoot all these shots. I thought it was a perfect marriage.”
It has been a perfect marriage between Henderson and the Rebels, even if there have been some not-so-ideal moments. Williams may have said it best when asked about Henderson’s impact and what this appearance in the tournament means moving forward.
“I think it’s great for our program and great for our university moving forward. He’s brought great energy to the school,” Williams said. “Whatever he says to the second team guys, I’m usually backing him up. Whenever we’re down, he’s usually telling us that it’s going to be OK. He’s our guy.”