He can be loud, sometimes annoying and go far over the top with his in-game antics. He’s never afraid to taunt another team’s players, fans or even their coaches. And he is certainly no stranger to performing the gator chomp either. Yet he is also a dead-eye three point shooter, and perhaps one of the best in all of college basketball. He is none other than Ole Miss senior guard Marshall Henderson.
Henderson took the world by storm by last year as he became the poster child of what high profile college athletes are not supposed to look like. He’s been portrayed as brash, cocky and by some a thug. He’s viewed as being a player who is all about himself and one who focuses on the attention and accolades he receives far more than that of his team.
A lot of that criticism can be justified. On the court, Henderson has been involved in some R-rated incidents. After being eliminated in last year’s NCAA Tournament, he was seen flipping off fans as he exited towards the Ole Miss locker room. And just recently, the controversial player got cursed at by Mississippi State coach Rick Ray as the Rebels were routing Ray’s Bulldogs. The coach later apologized, but his genuine agitation with Henderson during that moment of the game was evident. Off the court, Henderson has experienced numerous setbacks while making plenty of mistakes. He’s been in trouble with the law more than a few times and even served a three-game suspension in the earlier parts of this season.
Everything I’ve mentioned depicts Marshall Henderson in an extremely negative light. Why would anyone like this guy? And how in the world is he good for the game of college basketball?
I’ll tell you why; he’s different. Henderson is tough, fearless and doesn’t fit the mold of how college athletes are supposed to act. He rubs people the wrong way and greatly angers the opposition. And while it may seem like his attitude is “me me me”, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The guy plays with incredible passion, and his love for winning and the game of basketball itself was very apparent after that NCAA Tournament loss last March. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy has never wavered in backing Henderson up, and that speaks volumes. If he was such a problem or “thug” he’d no longer be on the Ole Miss team. Now I know the sharpshooter averages 19.2 points per game and is clearly Ole Miss’ best player, but still; if he was that big of a distraction, or a cancer to the team, he wouldn’t last.
Marshall Henderson has unquestionably had a few mishaps here and there, but what college student hasn’t? Aren’t we supposed to be a country that prides ourselves on giving people a second chance? I’m all for people being able to correct and learn from their mistakes. And with Henderson, that appears to be the case. So let’s not take the time to bash him and instead embrace him. He’s unique, exciting and exceptionally fun to watch. Love him or hate him, you can’t help but be entertained by him. His personality and play is refreshing and simply great for college basketball.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball columnist for RantSports.com. You can follow him on twitter @OfficialSturg27