Meridian Star

Sports

January 17, 2014

Emotional Henderson returns for Ole Miss

OXFORD — The days of a more docile Marshall Henderson are apparently over.

    The Mississippi guard says he's "going back to being me." That can be encouraging for Ole Miss fans. Or frightening.

    Henderson returned to the court Wednesday following a two-game suspension. He had 25 points against LSU and led Ole Miss to an 88-74 overtime victory.

    Near the end of the game, he ran toward the Mississippi student section and let out a huge yell. The jubilant fans responded with equal passion.

    It was the most obvious display of emotion from Henderson all season.

    The 6-foot-2 senior has toned down his behavior because his "total conduct" from last season was why Mississippi suspended him three games this season. One of those games was the season opener and the other two were SEC games.

    But Henderson is trying to bring back at least part of that passion.

    "I can't do it anymore," Henderson said following the game. "I'm sorry. I'm going back to being me, because we need it."

    Ole Miss (11-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) faces South Carolina (7-9, 0-3) on Saturday.

    Some of the "total conduct" Ole Miss referenced when announcing the suspension in October was clearly problematic: Police found Henderson with what appeared to be small amounts of cocaine and marijuana during a traffic stop in May — though he was only ticketed for no proof of insurance.

    He also earned a reprimand from the NCAA after making an "inappropriate gesture" toward the crowd following the school's loss to LaSalle in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

    But even outside of those more serious offenses, there were moments of questionable sportsmanship — like popping his jersey at the Auburn student section and doing the Gator Chomp motion at Florida fans during the SEC tournament — that pushed the limits on acceptable behavior.

    Ole Miss has embraced part of Henderson's bad boy persona. The school's video introduction before last Wednesday's game even showed some of Henderson's antics.

    But there's little doubt Henderson and the Rebels are walking a fine line, especially when every camera is focused on Henderson's behavior.

    This year's three-game suspension appeared to soften Henderson's on-the-court behavior and he wasn't nearly as demonstrative through the season's first two months. But if the LSU game is any indication, the old Henderson is slowly returning.

    At one point during the game, Henderson became irate at the officials after a no-call when he was knocked to the floor. After a timeout was called, two Ole Miss assistants rushed out to pull Henderson back to the huddle — one holding a clipboard in front of Henderson's face.

    Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has often defended Henderson in the past, saying his passion is part of what makes him a great player.

    "My interpretation is that he's going to play with emotion," Kennedy said on Friday. "But quite honestly, he's played with emotion in all the games he's played well and we've won just like the game against LSU. I just think it means he's going to play with a sense of urgency that all seniors should play with."

    There's little doubt the Rebels need him.

    Henderson's production is down slightly from last season, but he's still averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game and shooting nearly 40 percent (59 of 150) from 3-point range.

    Against LSU, he was 6 of 12 from behind the 3-point arc and scored 19 of his 25 points after halftime. Jarvis Summers and Sebastian Saiz both added 20 points as the Rebels beat LSU for the sixth time in seven tries.

    "It was a pretty solid performance out of our guys," Kennedy said. "It sets a new standard of what we are capable of if we take the right approach."

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