Monday, March 18, 2013

He is...The Most Interesting Man in the NCAA Tournament

He’s a sweet shooting, hustle-play making, white basketball player—yet ESPN despises him.
He celebrated winning the SEC basketball tournament—by partying with the football team.
The Forcier family thinks that he transfers schools too often.
In the offseason, he’s been known to buy illegal drugs—using Fake Money.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

I’m sitting here with a straight face and telling you that the one must-watch game of the 2013 NCAA tournament involves the Wisconsin Badgers. That’s right, a game featuring the least-exciting team in all of college basketball is suddenly the most intriguing matchup of the entire tournament. Why? Because by some twist of serendipity, it just so happens that they’ve been matched up against the most entertaining player in all of college basketball. In fact, you wouldn’t be missing much if you cover up your eyes and count to 35 every time the Badgers have possession (that’s pretty much what their offense consists of anyway). Just make sure you open them back up again when Ole Miss has the ball, so you can witness the mesmerizing freak show that is Marshall Henderson. (Everyone who lives north of the Mason-Dixon line: “Who????”)

If you’re not quite sure who Marshall Henderson could be, don’t worry. In fact, just two days ago, I was in that same boat; I'd never heard of the guy in my entire life. If asked about the subject, I probably would have guessed that he’s the dopey dude that Jason Segel plays on ‘How I Met Your Mother’. 48 hours later, however, this is a name and person that I won’t soon forget.  The sharpshooter down at Ole Miss has etched himself in my memory, for better or for worse. Move over Adam Morrison…the Tourney has a new raging lunatic.

"I always tell myself before every game, ‘OK, this is going to be the game where I’m focused’, and it just never happens.” –Marshall Henderson

A brief Marshall Henderson bio:
-   Leading scorer in the SEC, averaging over 19 points per game.
-   The coaches of the SEC didn’t vote him first team All-Conference, just out of spite. He responded by singlehandedly winning the SEC tournament and saying that all those coaches are "losers”.
-  He does some weird celebration/taunt after making shots, that he calls ‘the Land Shark’.
-  This is already his fourth college; he ended up at Ole Miss after bombing out at Utah and Texas Tech, and then winning a JuCo national championship a la Cam Newton.
-  He has tested  positive for cocaine, and was once busted for purchasing marijuana with Fake Money. That’s right, counterfeit money. Where would you even get that?? Does he have an old friend from high school who has his own printing press and a few reams of green construction paper? Did he do a Google Images search for ‘money’ and print out a bunch of copies of the first picture that showed up? I don’t deny that me and Marshall Henderson don’t exactly run with the same type of crowd, but I would be shocked if I could possibly find a single friend of a friend of a friend who would be willing to hook me up with some Fake Money. Such is the legend of Marshall Henderson. I’m not judging. There’s something perversely awesome about all of this.

**side note: Is it still a violation of NCAA rules if some booster gives a player thousands of dollars in pretend money? Should Ole Miss have to vacate all of their losses from the season?

On paper, I should hate Marshall Henderson. I know, I know, he goes against nearly everything that I stand for when it comes to basketball, sportsmanship, and lifestyle. But I can’t do it. I’ve fallen victim to the Chris Kramer Effect (see side note #2). I find myself cheering for the bad guy with no remorse whatsoever. When Marshall Henderson plays, I want the Titanic to sink, I want Johnny Lawrence to pummel Larusso, and I don’t want Scrooge to see the error of his ways. Henderson is just too good, and plays with too much fire and passion, and is far too entertaining for me to root against him. He has a gametime intensity that evokes John McEnroe. He took a bubble team in Ole Miss and carried them on his back to an SEC tournament championship with a stunning comeback win over Florida yesterday. He taunted the crowd by doing an ironic Gator chomp for nearly ten seconds. He buried a 35-footer at the buzzer on the road against Vanderbilt to send the game to OT. At Auburn, he allowed for this picture to exist, after hitting two free throws to clinch the game. He will shoot from anywhere on the court, at any time, no matter how closely guarded he is. On any given night, he could take between 20 and 30 shots. Of Jaeger. On the basketball court, he might put up even more.

**side note #2: back when Chris Kramer played for Purdue, I thought I was going to hate him. When his Boilermaker squad came into Crisler Arena in 2009, I took one look at the guy and thought, “this is the most stereotypical frat boy meathead that I’ve ever seen.” And I wasn’t wrong either. He was and still probably is. And yet, the more I watched him play, the more of a fan I became. He was a great athlete, lockdown defender, could dunk a little in traffic, was a better offensive player than he chose to be, and his "I'm a complete frat boy douche, but that's who I am, and at least I'm true to myself" persona actually suited him quite well. For some reason, I could appreciate that, and Kramer became one of my favorite Big Ten players.

Back to Marshall Henderson. I have no idea what will happen when Ole Miss squares off against Wisconsin on Friday afternoon. Channeling the unpredictability of JR “Swish” Smith, Marshall Henderson could go 2 for 20 and get thrown out of the game just as easily as he could explode for 40 points, hit the game winning shot, give Bo Ryan the ‘suck it’ gesture all the way through the postgame handshakes, and help Ole Miss become the ugliest Cinderella in the history of the tournament. That craziness and uncertainty is precisely what makes the NCAA Tournament so exciting, and it’s been awhile since we’ve had a good villain (one that doesn’t break down crying with 1.9 seconds left and his team still having a chance to win). So once again, when 12:40 rolls around on Friday afternoon, I implore you all to drop what you’re doing and bear witness to a game where something crazy is almost guaranteed to happen. In the meantime, check out a few of these gems.

During one game, he threw a handful of ice at the fans—and they were his own fans.
He wears jersey number 22, in honor of his favorite player--Marshall Henderson.
He lives by the three—but doesn’t die by it.

“I don’t always shoot, but when I do…you know what, scratch that. I DO always shoot.”




  1. man great article H... never heard of this guy before but now I really wanna watch him play

    H who do you think is more literate... him or Huck Finn?

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  3. i have them in my final four.... Big Mitchy