Murphy Holloway has correctly identified his flamboyant new teammate, Marshall Henderson, as part of the show.
“People come to watch Marshall,” says Holloway, the Rebels’ senior forward and the SEC’s leading rebounder.
The SEC’s version of the show, Kentucky, is coming to Tad Smith Coliseum tonight.
Ole Miss has won nine straight and is off to its best SEC start in school history at 6-0. A couple of recent wins have come while the Rebels haven’t played their best basketball.
You can interpret that a couple of ways. It’s either the mark of a pretty good team to overcome adversity and win or the mark of a team ripe for defeat.
The Rebels need Henderson and Holloway to be at their best today against Kentucky and later this week at No. 4 Florida.
This isn’t last year’s Kentucky, whose talented freshmen led a national championship run, but it’s Kentucky, which is to say there’s plenty to work with. The Wildcats will be the most talented team Ole Miss has faced since Missouri, which was without its leading scorer at the time.
This week, Ole Miss will need the defensive energy it often brings and will need a double dose of the offensive efficiency it sometimes brings.
It will need Henderson to make shots and ignite a sellout crowd at Tad Smith Coliseum.
It doesn’t necessarily need Henderson to incite opposing fans on the road.
Henderson doesn’t care and is unapologetic for his personality. It’s as much a part of his game as his 3-point shot.
He’s played on the SEC road three times and twice has been accused of offering the internationally understood gesture of ill will to opposing fans. No eye-witnesses have confirmed either accusation.
Henderson is not your cookie cutter college athlete. He will say what he’s thinking.
Henderson’s unconventional route to Ole Miss has included stops at two other Division 1 programs, a junior college and a resolved legal incident. In Andy Kennedy he has found a coach with a high tolerance for individuality, but Kennedy does have behavioral limits. Dundrecous Nelson and Jelan Kendrick are recent examples of that.
There’s a line that Henderson has approached but not crossed. As long as he walks the line there’s the danger of crossing it.
For now that hasn’t happened. It was even Henderson who kept his cool in the final seconds at Auburn, urging calm from Kennedy who protested the lack of a foul call when Reggie Buckner’s potential game-winning dunk was blocked.
Seconds later it was calm, cool Henderson who sank two big throws when then Rebels were just 2-for-15 at the free throw line at the time.
That’s what the Rebels need from Henderson. Big plays in the clutch. Attitude optional.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford @journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMiss Sports.com.