By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
LaDarius White and Marshall Henderson could hardly be more different in their personalities.
Henderson, the native Texan and flamboyant shooting guard for Ole Miss, is very comfortable in the spotlight. White, a soft-spoken country boy from McComb, accepts it reluctantly and answers interview questions carefully.
When opposites attract as teammates, the differences are irrelevant as long as one important characteristic is shared – the pursuit of a common goal.
There really was just one goal for the Rebels this season, one big, massive goal. Winning 20 games or even 25 would have lost some meaning without reaching the NCAA tournament.
So focused were the Rebels on that goal, Henderson says, that it contributed to a wobbly second half of SEC play.
“We’re ready. This is what we’ve been waiting for all year. It’s part of the reason we slipped up in conference some. The grind kind of got to us,” said Henderson, who averaged 23.6 points in three games and earned SEC tournament MVP honors in helping Ole Miss to the title.
Henderson’s teammates call him “misunderstood,” which I don’t think is entirely correct. He’s as unpredictable as he comes across on TV.
If his television impression leaves viewers believing he’s not a good team- mate, well, that’s wrong.
He doesn’t mind talking about himself, and he would prefer to be in front of the camera rather than behind it.
But he’s also quick to encourage his teammates, to make room for them in the spotlight and to celebrate their success – team success.
“Murphy’s a senior. He’s willed us through a lot of things this year. No better player to lead us to victory today than Murphy Holloway,” said Henderson after Holloway posted 23 points and 10 rebounds in the 66-63 championship win over Florida.
While Henderson and Holloway became the focal points of the offense on Sunday, White was content to set things in motion.
As point guard Jarvis Summers sat out with a concussion, White’s role was very different, and he handled the transition with ease. His scoring was off, but he had nine rebounds, four assists and only one turnover in 34 minutes.
“It feels so good just to have Mississippi blow up,” he said.
After Holloway’s critical free throw gave Ole Miss a three-point edge with 8.3 seconds left, White approached the free throw line for a few words of encouragement.
“He said, ‘One more. One more Murph, and I can get back to McComb,’” Holloway said.
Not gonna change
Ole Miss players got a glimpse of Henderson in the summer. It was their breaking-in period. While Henderson’s non-traditional attitude has become the talk of the SEC – generating boos at each lineup introduction – the Rebels knew what was coming.
“We just had to accept it,” White said. “He’s going to be who he is regardless. He’s not going to change for me, he’s not going to change for you or for the fans. He’s going to be who he is wherever he goes.”
That may be the key to the week ahead. If everybody is who they are, Ole Miss has the goods to do more than just make an NCAA appearance.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.