By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – We think that news slows down in the summer, but does it ever really slow down for Marshall Henderson?
I was on vacation last week when the flamboyant Ole Miss basketball player was reprimanded by the NCAA for his actions as he left the floor following the Rebels’ NCAA tournament third-round loss to La Salle.
While the infamous gesture was caught on video for the first time, it was not the first time Henderson was accused of such.
His reputation had kind of preceded him. Did you see the internet clip from the Auburn game? How about the gator chomp against Florida in the SEC tournament finals?
So it took this long for the NCAA to determine that Henderson’s exit against La Salle was inappropriate. C’mon guys, you had to form a committee and study that?
I do not apologize for, nor condone, Marshall Henderson’s behavior.
However, the Ole Miss web site had long since published an apology attributed to Henderson for that and other actions.
Timing does matter. The NCAA’s reprimand would have had more teeth had it come down the day after the La Salle game. This kind of delay between action and response implies that neither are important.
Maybe an immediate response would have taken attention away from the NCAA tournament, but Henderson’s wayward fingers were getting plenty of coverage already.
Even at this late date, the NCAA reprimand is not completely without bite. It assures that Henderson remains a bright green blip on the SEC radar. It’s hard to imagine Henderson – if his behavior remains unchanged – going wire to wire this coming season without an intervention from Birmingham.
The good news is this is July. Henderson has had plenty of time and will have plenty more to consider a different approach to freedom of expression.
His actions last season overshadowed the fact that he was really a good teammate. Henderson craves the spotlight, no doubt, but he’s quick to draw his teammates into the light with him. It’s not that he’ll step out of the light, but he invites them in, as he did with his comments about Murphy Holloway after the SEC tourney title game. He’s quick with a chest bump and other encouragement for his teammates during games.
The sweat wasn’t dry in the Ole Miss locker room in Kansas City before Henderson spoke of being a leader his senior season.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy says this summer that Henderson – in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for the Kevin Durant Skills Camp – is putting in the work and doing everything you want from a senior.
For now, those are just words. Henderson’s bad boy image was displayed for so long it will take more than one visual example for people to buy into his leadership role.
Maybe Henderson becomes a sparkling example of leadership next year.
What would actually be better is if someone else picks up the role of locker room leader, and Henderson finds acceptable common ground that allows his entertaining break from conformity while staying within the lines.
There’s a lot at stake for both Henderson and the Rebels next year.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs at InsideOleMissSports.com.