March 12, 2012

Henderson eager to play in SEC

Marshall Henderson didn't know much about Ole Miss until January.

The Rebels didn't know a whole lot about Henderson, either.

Then fate did its thing.

Ole Miss dismissed guard Dundrecous Nelson from the program in early January, just days before the Rebels' season opener at LSU. On Jan. 16, Henderson's South Plains (Texas) College team played at Midland College. Ole Miss coaches were in attendance.

"Within the week, I had an offer on the table," Henderson said.

On Monday, the 6-foot-2 shooting guard committed to Ole Miss, giving the Rebels the explosive outside threat they lacked after Nelson's dismissal.

"It's a really good situation for me," said Henderson, who has helped lead South Plains to a No. 1 ranking, a 32-0 record and a trip to next week's national junior college tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. "Their whole team is coming back except for Terrance Henry. They almost made the NCAA tournament this year (Ole Miss is a No. 2 seed in the NIT tournament. The Rebels entertain Illinois State in a first-round game Wednesday night). I'm hoping I can help them get there next year. I want to bring some points to the table."

Henderson scored 32 points, knocking down eight of 15 shots from the 3-point line, in Sunday's regional final, an 84-74 win over Howard College in Lubbock. For the season, Henderson is averaging 19.4 points per game. The Hurst, Texas, native is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 43 percent from the 3-point line and 88 percent from the free throw line. He's added 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game as well.

Henderson began his college career at Utah. He transferred to Texas Tech and sat for a season while adhering to the NCAA's transfer rules. When Pat Knight was let go, Henderson elected to leave as well. He'll have two years of eligibility remaining when he reports to Ole Miss this summer.

"I'm thrilled," Henderson said. "I didn't really know what was going to happen after the whole Tech thing. South Plains proved to be extremely perfect. Now to be able to go play in the SEC, to play against Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, the highest level, I can't wait."

Henderson said he watched several of the Rebels' games this season, including Ole Miss' SEC tournament quarterfinal win over Tennessee on Friday and the semifinal loss to Vanderbilt a day later.

"I was kind of studying their defense - a lot of zone, traps and stuff, some man," Henderson said. "I'm a smart player. I'll have it all figured out."

More than anything, Henderson said, he's eager to keep improving as a player and winning at a high level.

"I improved a lot at Texas Tech," Henderson said. "At Utah, I was just standing in the corner as a shooter. For Coach Knight, everyone set screens and I was moving more. That really helped me. I know I have the talent to (play in the NBA), but ultimately, that won't be decided until people see how the team does at Mississippi and what role I play in helping us win.

"Look at Steve Blake (now with the Los Angeles Lakers). He might not be in the NBA now if he hadn't helped Maryland win the national championship. The winners always get the benefits."

Ole Miss has already signed guard Montavious Newby and forward Anthony Cortesia for the 2012 class. The Rebels are believed to be targeting a point guard and another low-post performer to complete the class.

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