It certainly didn’t take Marshall Henderson the entire regular season to introduce himself to the college basketball nation last year.
No, there were plenty of steps from the beginning. The visibility of his non-traditional behavior only heightened with the exposure of conference play.
And it peaked this week a year ago.
The SEC tournament became Henderson’s playground, his chance to thumb his nose at coaches who defied him by not voting him part of the All-SEC first team.
CBSSports.com called Henderson, the league’s leading scorer in 2013, the SEC player of the year. The Associated Press had him on its all-conference first team and pegged him the newcomer of the year.
The coaches, though, banished him to the second team.
Henderson’s response was to average 23.7 points, leading the Rebels to three straight wins and only the second SEC tournament title in school history.
The stage belonged to Henderson, right down to his Gator chomping in the final minutes of the Rebels’ 66-63 win over Florida in the championship game.
Media voted him the SEC tournament MVP. The coaches don’t pick such a team, or he might have been honorable mention.
Like him or not, Henderson’s play last season made him very deserving of the accolades and notoriety he received.
There is, of course, a lot not to like about Henderson’s Ole Miss career if you have problems with disrespect for opponents or his admitted experimentation with illegal drugs.
Aside from a dust-up with Mississippi State coach Rick Ray in which cameras caught Ray mouthing that unfortunate phrase that begins with the alphabet’s fourth consonant, Henderson’s behavior has been an impressive turnaround from his junior season. (Note to coaches. Those cameras are everywhere.)
On the floor, Henderson’s senior year had been just as productive until recently. He’s going to throw up some wild shots, often misses, but always around the corner was a string of 3-pointers that left you in awe of a skinny kid with an abundance of effort if not athleticism.
He hasn’t had that string since Feb. 15 when he was 5-for-11 from 3 at Georgia. In the last six games Henderson is 22-for-78 from the arc for 28.2 percent.
Without Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner to assist him from up front, Henderson hasn’t been able to carry the Rebels, so their absence from the NCAA conversation is not surprising.
Ole Miss depends on Henderson and Jarvis Summers, its guards and best players. Anything the Rebels get from their bigs is, as we say in newspaper, “bonus coverage.”
The four-day run to a championship is a daunting task especially with an inconsistent frontcourt game.
So when Ole Miss takes the floor at the Georgia Dome Thursday night, perhaps against MSU, Henderson needs to be not only on his best behavior but at his productive best as well.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journal inc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.