Outside of this season, when is the last time anyone on a national scale cared about the Ole Miss Rebels? They have never reached a Final Four, only have six NCAA Tournament appearances, and don’t exactly scream college basketball awesomeness. So the answer is probably never.
However, there is a player on their roster that has the nation picking sides. Love him or hate him, Marshall Henderson has given Ole Miss a place in the national spotlight.
Henderson is an undersized junior guard who knows he’s good and lets you know it. Henderson got a great deal of publicity after he mocked Auburn Tigers fans shortly after nailing a couple free-throws to seal the victory. Then, inevitably, the debate began, was his antics good for the game? So since we are now an embrace the debate kind of culture, two factions emerged.
The folks that dislike Henderson’s on the court antics find his most trivial offences diabolical. Whether it be Henderson showing off the Ole Miss jersey to Auburn fans, throwing ice cubes at his own, or telling a reporter in an interview that he enjoys being the bad guy, to these people Henderson is everything wrong with sports. Oddly enough, these are the same people who are okay with celebrating Reggie Miller doing a choke sign to Spike Lee, calling the NFL the No Fun League because of their rules against celebrations, and bashing athletes with no personality.
These people are not only hypocrites but probably never watched Henderson play.
There is another section of folks who love Henderson. Not only do they enjoy his on the court play, they think his interaction with the crowd is good for college hoops(Full disclosure: I am in this group). Henderson doesn’t do anything mean-spirited. In fact he doesn’t discriminate, not only will he give the opposing crowd something to remember, but he will throw ice cubes at his own fans (as we saw last night). The man even admitted in an interview that he enjoyed playing the villain role.
And that’s all it is, a role. He’s not beating anyone up, he’s not hurting anyone, nor is he breaking any rules. The kid enjoys playing the game of basketball while talking trash, interacting with the fans, and doing his best on the court.
Yet, we have to make this a good or bad debate, forgetting all the gray area in between. His ability as a basketball player has been pushed to the wayside. Before last night’s loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, Henderson had a bandwagon full of fans. After the game was another story, despite dropping 21 points on an extremely off night, people were quick to blame Henderson for the loss. Somehow, I think Henderson likes it that way. He’s okay drawing all of the attention to himself, that way when a loss comes, nobody is questioning Ole Miss’ decision to keep attacking Nerlens Noel with no success time after time.
Henderson is a streaky volume-shooter that helped Ole Miss get some national buzz. He has also helped college basketball step into the limelight before February hit. Apparently these are all things that are somehow wrong with sports. Not that Skip Bayless has somehow become one of the most watched, important sports personalities. Not that there are players beating up on one another during games. Not that the NCAA is investigating itself for doing some shady stuff.
But Henderson having fun, during a basketball game, while being incredibly entertaining and most importantly being a good basketball player, now that’s what is wrong with sports.
It’s okay not to like Marshall “Womp Womp Monster” Henderson. Not only does he like it that way, he told you so in an interview. But for everyone who claims they love college hops yet says he is bad for the game, when is the last time an 11 pm SportCenter opened with the number 16th ranked team in the country?
Please tell me, I’ll wait.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports and is a firm believer that Henderson’s nickname should be the Womp Womp Monster(Due to his ability to make naysayers’ voices just sound like Womp Womp Womp is coming out of their mouth). For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone