Big East Player to Watch: LaDontae Henton (Providence)

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

As a freshman on a Providence team that won four Big East games, LaDontae Henton flew under the radar in 2011-12. But there’s plenty of reason to believe Henton has a bright future — not limited to the college level.

First of all, any freshman who averages 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game is worthy of attention. But Henton posted those numbers for the Friars, who played top competition in the Big East. In fact, against conference opponents, Henton boosted his scoring average to 15.2 and upped his three-point percentage to 43.1 percent (39.3 percent on the season).

That spike proves two things. One, he matured over the course of last year, improving as he played more games. Two, Henton is a force entering his sophomore season.

We all know the adage “everyone is a star in highlights” but if you watch Henton’s freshman season clips on Youtube, you’ll throw that saying out the window. Luck here and there can help a player look good in a highlight reel. Henton’s clips, though, have nothing to do with luck and everything to do with talent.

Watch the linked video, and you’ll notice a few things.

Even at 6-foot-6, his strength is overbearing. He routinely fights for position, banging with and beating bigger players, to secure rebounds or score in the post.

Henton also has a nose for the ball. Especially on the glass, he simply knows where to be, a skill that cannot be taught. The fact that he is the Big East’s No. 3 returning rebounder can at least partially be attributed to his understanding of location — the rest, obviously, to his ability to gain position.

And then there’s his smoothness and versatility on offense. Whether he’s down low, on the go, or pulling up from mid-range or deep, Henton is a threat to score. He can even make things happen with the ball in his hands in transition. With his size and versatility, Henton will be the benefactor of many a mismatch. And that trend will only become more prevalent in his game as he hones his already impressive skill set.

Skeptics will always throw in their two cents. But they can really only point to the proverbial sophomore slump and the 37.2 minutes per game Henton played last year.

Forget the slump, though. Henton didn’t arrive with raw skill, dominating games because of his youth and excitement to be playing at the college level. The only reason he would slump: a light offseason. But I’m not expecting any decline from Henton, simply because of his skill set.

Henton was one of three Friars — Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton — to average more than 37 minutes per game last year. In addition to the team’s lack of talent when Big East play rolled around, many also thought overuse augmented Providence’s struggles. But as mentioned earlier, Henton only improved in Big East play. Fatigue didn’t catch up with him then, and after a few months off, his body should be ready to go.

Don’t be surprised to see his name, maybe even ahead of Council’s, on a Big East all-conference team in March.

 

Follow Ari Kramer on Twitter to talk Big East and college basketball.

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