By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer
After a tumultuous summer, the Marshall Henderson road show is returning for a second season.
The Ole Miss 6-foot-2 senior guard will be back on the court for Saturday’s road game against Coastal Carolina after being suspended for the season opener. The Rebels hope he can add some scoring punch while keeping his behavior in check.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said he is anxious to see how his team — and Henderson — respond to a hostile environment.
“I know they’ll be excited to yell at Marshall,” Kennedy said. “But get in line, a lot of people are.”
Henderson scored more than 20 points per game last season, becoming one of college basketball’s biggest villains in the process because of his penchant for riling up opposing fans with his theatrics.
He’s also had off-the-court issues and was indefinitely suspended in July after police found him with small amounts of marijuana and cocaine during a traffic stop, though he was not arrested.
Henderson was suspended three regular-season games by the school. He still must sit out the Rebels’ first two Southeastern Conference games against Auburn (Jan. 9) and Mississippi State (Jan. 11).
Henderson has been allowed to practice with the team during his suspension, but has not spoken with the media except for a one-on-one interview with ESPN in October.
Ole Miss (1-0) won its season opener 69-54 against Troy despite shooting just 34.7 percent from the field.
Ready to step in
Kennedy said Henderson has looked fine during preseason practice and shouldn’t have a problem working his way into the playing rotation.
“I’ve seen what he can do,” Kennedy said. “Last year we played 36 games (with Henderson) and that’s really what I’m judging him on moreso than this past week. I’m hoping that him being a senior, and him having gone through the experience he went through last year, that he’ll be much more equipped to handle all the things that will be thrown at him on Saturday.”
Henderson is undeniably a difference-maker on the court with his ability to score in bunches, especially from outside. He made nearly four 3-pointers per game last season despite usually being the focal point of opposing defense. Ole Miss finished with a 27-9 record last season, winning an SEC tournament championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012.
But Henderson had some help, especially from veteran forwards Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. Now those two are gone and Henderson will have to shoulder even more of the load.
Kennedy said a trip to Coastal Carolina should help his relatively inexperienced team grow quickly. Henderson is the only senior on the roster.
“It’s a great challenge for us,” Kennedy said. “Any time you take a young team, and that’s what we are predominantly, we’re still playing with a lot of young guys. You put them in front of hostile fans. I’m anxious to see how we respond to that environment.”