NCAA Tournament

The Marshall Henderson Show comes to KC

Updated: 2013-03-21T20:11:46Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

@NativeFlash22 is jacked.

“Iowa State is my team of the year as of now!! they stroke mad 3s!!”

“…10 IN A ROW IN PONG!! WHO WANTS TO SEE US?!?!”

“…cant wait to hoop against MIKE BRU(E)SEWITZ!!! That dude got some serious swag!!!”

Welcome to Marshall Henderson’s Twitter feed and an insight into his world — a crazy mixture of fun, bravado, taunts, respect and disrespect.

Just like his game, which arrives along with Mississippi this week for opening-round NCAA Tournament games.

The Rebels will play Wisconsin, kicking off Friday’s games at Sprint Center, and the selection committee could not have matched more polar opposites, at least in comportment.

The button-down, disciplined Badgers vs. Mississippi and the trash-talking Henderson, the player opponents love to hate.

Henderson, the 6-foot-2 junior guard in his first year suiting up for the Rebels, was the leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference at 20.1 points per game while helping Mississippi reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2001.

Rebels coach Andy Kennedy knew a talented, passionate player was arriving from South Plains Junior College in Texas, where Henderson was the national junior college player of the year last season. Before that, Henderson was enrolled at Texas Tech and started his career at Utah.

What Kennedy didn’t know was the sometimes polarizing show that accompanied the player, like when Henderson showed his jersey to angry Auburn fans, taunted Tennessee fans and did a mocking gator chomp during the SEC tournament championship victory over Florida.

“I had a pretty good feeling he was going to impact the team with his ability as a player,” Kennedy said. “He’s a gamer, makes the hard shot.

“But the whole Marshall Henderson phenomenon, that’s been a surprise. It’s like traveling with the Beatles. It’s crazy, honestly.”

Henderson has his fans and many detractors. After Mississippi defeated Missouri in the SEC quarterfinals, Henderson said only four Tigers shook his hand, the walk-ons and Laurence Bowers. The sense was nobody else wanted anything to do with the taunting Henderson, who apparently had exchanges with Missouri fans in the stands as well.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we didn’t say a couple of things into their ear after the final buzzer sounded,” Henderson said of the MU handshake line. “You can come shake our hands. We would have shook their hands. But you know, it’s whatever. We get the last laugh in the end. We came out on top.”

It doesn’t stop with opposing fans or players. Henderson wasn’t selected to either of the all-SEC teams selected by the coaches or the media. The coaches’ team had eight first-team members and Henderson wasn’t among them.

After the Rebels beat Florida on Sunday, Henderson was chosen tournament MVP after averaging 23.7 points. He called the coaches “losers” when asked about the omission.

“I guess that’s just a shot at all the other coaches out here,” Henderson said. “They’re losers. They didn’t win this tournament. We did.”

Henderson’s path to success has been bumpy. In addition to the transfers, he spent 25 days in jail last spring for violation of the terms of a probation stemming from a 2010 forgery charge related to counterfeit money, USA Today reported in January. His probation was revoked after he tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.

Mississippi officials said they were aware of Henderson’s issues and that there had been no problems while he’s been a student there.

Still, when asked Monday if he takes a hands-off approach to Henderson, Kennedy said, “We have hands on, 24/7. We don’t have enough hands sometimes.”

But Henderson’s passion, Kennedy said, isn’t contrived.

“It comes from a good place,” Kennedy said. “He cares more than you can imagine. Sometimes that crossed the line.”

When it does, the fans jeer and boo, opponents miss the handshake line and honors are withheld.

It all seems to fuel Henderson’s fire.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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