Is the NCAA Tournament ready for the Marshall Henderson experience?
You can bet the Ole Miss showboat is ready for the bright lights.
Henderson was named the SEC Newcomer of the Year this week. Fans of those teams he has torched would use some other names to describe the swashbuckling senior from Hurst, Texas.
SEC fans got to experience the good, bad and the ugly that Henderson brought to Twang Town.
If he’s on your team, you love Henderson’s passion, his drive, as well as his fearless personality. If he’s not on your team, even innocent bystanders see a punk kid who needs his mouth washed out with soap followed by a trip to the woodshed.
In the SEC Championship Sunday, he was Gator chomping the Florida fans in an exaggerated outburst. He flashed the Land Shark sign when he places his thumb on his forehead and raises his fingers straight up. It’s meant to be a tribute to the Ole Miss football team, specifically to the defense that makes the sign when they make a big play.
Those fans that don’t know that probably think he is flashing a gang sign or flipping them off.
Henderson has been to four schools in as many years after playing for his father, Willie, in high school. He has been shooting 3s on a goal Willie put up for him when he was 6 years old.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy knew he needed a shooter after last season. Marshall Henderson was available.
“I had a pretty good feeling he was going to have an impact on our team with his ability as a player,” Kennedy said earlier this week. “He’s a quick shooter, makes hard shots. He’s a gamer and plays with such passion.
“The whole Marshall Henderson phenomena, even I was taken back by that a little bit. It’s like traveling with the Beatles. It’s crazy.”
There’s no doubting the kid has game. He has a good handle, dribbling out the final minute of a game in Globetrotter style.
He has been known to toss ice at opposing fans in the stands and carry on a running conversation with those who dare challenge him.
Kennedy was asked on Monday’s teleconference if he handles Henderson with gloves off.
“No, no,” Kennedy said emphatically. “We have hands on 24/7. Unfortunately we don’t have enough hands sometimes. I do know him and people who know him know his passion comes from a good place.
“He’s a kid who cares more than you can imagine, but sometimes that crosses the line.”
Henderson won MVP honors in the SEC Tournament. His stat sheet mirrors his personality. It’s all over the place.
He was 6-of-14 from the field, 3-of-8 from 3-point range. Officials never have to check replay monitors to see if his foot was on the line. He didn’t miss in six free throw attempts. A guard, he had four rebounds, two assists, three steals and seven turnovers. He seems to save his best for the second half, as Ole Miss outscored Florida 40-25 to take a 66-63 win.
Ole Miss opens with Wisconsin in Kansas City Friday. Talk about polar opposites. Here you have this trash-talking Texan busting on some Midwestern farm kids with manners.
Should Ole Miss advance to the Sweet 16, they would play in Los Angeles.
Is Hollywood ready for Marshall Henderson? Move over, Kobe. There’s a new kid on the block.
Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org