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Now that Marshall Henderson's NCAA tournament experience is over, lets hope that when the shoot-first Ole Miss star returns for his senior season that he has undergone a personality change that makes him a lot less obnoxious.
Henderson's sea of apologists, which include many in the media, certainly will accuse me of being a member of the No Fun team, or predictably a racist, because I don't find Henderson's antics harmless or good for a sport that lacks stars.
Henderson exited the first weekend of the NCAA tournament with quite a stat line. He took 42 shots in two tournament games and made just 14 of them. He went to a bar after Ole Miss upset Wisconsin in their tournament opener for shots of a different kind. And then after the Rebels were eliminated by La Salle, Henderson left the court hoisting two middle fingers toward the fans in the arena.
|Does Marshall Henderson have an off switch?|
And unlike a lot of the jumpers he took that weekend, those gestures scored a direct hit.
Only Henderson barely received any condemnation for his behavior. All it did was further balloon Henderson's street cred.
In fact, Henderson's carefree shooting earned a joking mention from LeBron James, who tweeted that Henderson "has the greenest light in basketball history." And that's saying something considering LeBron plays against Kobe Bryant.
Not only does Henderson have license to shoot at will, but he also has been enabled to the point where he isn't accountable for anything.
For those who have followed Henderson all season, his behavior at the NCAA tournament was nothing new. Earlier in the season, Henderson threw ice at his own student section. He has openly taunted other teams. He has no filter. Before his team played in the NCAA tournament, Henderson said, "I'm trying to get paid here soon because I'm sick of doing all this stuff for free."
And after a big win, Henderson made sure to let the public know in the crassest way possible that he had to tend to his, um, women.
The reaction? Do you, Marshall.
This is just a breakdown of what Henderson has done in recent months. In January 2012, his probation was revoked after he reportedly tested positive for alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
The reaction? Eh, he was just a kid.
To get on probation in the first place, Henderson was found guilty in a case which stemmed from buying marijuana with counterfeit money.
The reaction? Hey, everyone makes mistakes.
And did I also mention that Ole Miss is Henderson's fourth school? And along the way, he's earned a reputation for being uncoachable, despite being the son of a coach. During the Kentucky game, during which he threw ice at the Ole Miss student section, he and coach Andy Kennedy got into a shouting match on the bench.
But he's just being passionate, right? He's just showing how much he loves the game. And what coach doesn't want a player who's averaging 20 points a game, even if it takes Henderson 15.3 shots per game to do it?
I'm not dredging up Henderson's past because I don't think he should be playing college ball. If Ole Miss was willing to give him an opportunity, good for him.
But I don't see passion when Henderson behaves likes he doesn't have any sense. I see posturing and arrogance. I see someone who is being enabled and doesn't seem to get that the immaturity he exhibits is why he's got a rap sheet in the first place. And no, I don't think it's a good thing for a guy who once tested positive for cocaine to be in a bar.
To be honest, I can't blame Henderson entirely for his behavior. The media and fans also are to blame for creating a rather obvious double standard.
Yes, like it or not, race has played a role in how Henderson is perceived. I couldn't imagine the fallout if a black athlete behaved the way Henderson has. Actually, I don't have to imagine it, because it's already been proved.
A lot of black athletes are never allowed to fully divorce themselves from a troublesome past, even if they show genuine contrition or have been forced to rectify their mistakes.
Cam Newton was under tremendous scrutiny during his final year at Auburn. The controversy that involved his father, Cecil, who was accused of creating a bidding war for his son during his recruitment, threatened to overshadow Cam's Heisman season. Before Cam accepted the Heisman award, there was a serious debate about whether his father should even be present at the ceremony.
In Pro Football Weekly's draft guide, Newton was characterized as being "selfish," "me first," and having a "fake smile."
Those questions about Newton's character and leadership have never disappeared, despite his accomplishments.
And yet Henderson is being upheld as some kind of hero.
I'll bet some of the same people who think Henderson is just a free spirit probably called Allen Iverson a selfish punk. Or thought Tyrann Mathieu never deserved to wear an LSU uniform again.
I'll bet some of the same folks who vehemently argue against college athletes being paid probably applauded Henderson for his honesty when he said he was tired of playing for free.
I'm also in favor of paying college players. And I know Henderson has his detractors, and that his troubles haven't been completely ignored. His problems have been mentioned in many articles and columns. It's just that Henderson is able to operate independently of his past, without it defining him.
Theoretically, that's the way it should be. Henderson has every right to be judged apart from his past. But that's much harder to do when he seems determined to repeat the same mistakes.