Wiedmer: Rebs' Henderson may be brilliant in his craziness

Wiedmer: Rebs' Henderson may be brilliant in his craziness

March 17th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

NASHVILLE - After three months of suspicions from all who've played against him, Mississippi junior guard Marshall Henderson stated what some have believed obvious.

"I'm crazy in the head," the wild-eyed Southern boy from Dallas said after his 27 points almost single-handedly brought down Missouri in a Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinal game Friday night.

But is that just plain loco-crazy, as he often appears to act? Or is he crazy like a fox, often able to get the Rebels' opponents so distracted and disgusted and discombobulated that they forget about the task at hand, which is to win the game?

Even Saturday, in the wake of a 23-point effort against Vanderbilt by the SEC's leading scorer for the season, Henderson couldn't resist a subtle jab at the Florida team Ole Miss will face today in the SEC tourney title game.

"[Scottie] Wilbekin's supposed to be their best defender," Henderson said. "Well, I got 25 on him last time. But I draw the best defender every single game. It's been that way my whole life."

His whole life could end up as a Quentin Tarantino movie with a buzz-cut Colin Farrell in the lead.

Just soak up these bare details. His final high school season in Henderson's native Texas derailed for being caught with a beer. Signed with Utah but left there in part because he allegedly punched a BYU player, though video of that action seems to side with Henderson.

From there he transferred to Texas Tech, though he never played after an old issue regarding his attempt to purchase marijuana with $800 of counterfeit money surfaced. He spent 25 days in jail for that action, then fled Lubbock for South Plains (Junior) College, which he led to an undefeated season and the NJCAA national championship by scoring 32 points in the title game.

But that's nothing to the controversy he's stirred in the SEC by nearly inciting riots at Tennessee and Auburn, then making Missouri so mad during Friday's quarterfinal comeback win that Tigers assistant Dave Leitao briefly spent time outside the Rebels locker room hoping to confront him.

Said Henderson during the most bizarre SEC tournament news conference ever that was not attended by former LSU coach Dale Brown: "I'm not going to sit here and say we probably didn't say a couple of things to them in their ear when the final buzzer sounded, but you can come shake our hands. We'll shake their hands. You know what, it's whatever. We get the last laugh. We came out on top."

This after he stared down a Mizzou fan during a timeout and apparently taunted their bench after he hit one of his trademark 3-pointers, the ones that made him the SEC's leading scorer (19.9 ppg).

Needless to say that despite leading the Rebels in scoring against Vandy in Saturday's semifinal, Henderson was not invited back to the podium.

Yet perhaps we should focus more on this statement from Friday night when evaluating Henderson's true motives: "I'm a manipulator of sorts, and I like messing with people's minds."

So he taunts opposing crowds and players and the result is that Ole Miss is having its best season in years (25-8 after tying for second in the league during the regular season with a 12-6 record) and an all-but-certain NCAA bid when the tournament bracket is announced this evening.

But he also does stuff like helping Vandy guard Kedren Johnson to his feet after he hit the floor in the first half.

And the gesture he made after a big 3-pointer in the second half wasn't to taunt Vandy as much as acknowledge his buddies on the Ole Miss football team.

"It's called the 'Landshark,'" Henderson said in explaining the gesture of placing his thumb to his forehead and wiggling his fingers. "The defense does it when they get a sack. They started asking me, 'Why don't you do the landshark?' So I did."

But doesn't the anger aimed his way bother him, especially after he was shockingly left off the SEC's eight-man first-team all-conference squad, presumably because of disgust over his antics?

"I love when my name gets announced [for starting lineups] and I hear the boos," he said with a grin. "That's the best."

It would be better for Hendeson to tone it down, to blend in more in a team game.

As Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy noted Saturday, "His passion is in the right place. Marshall just needs to keep his focus better."

But maybe his focus is better than people think.

Asked about the upcoming NCAA tournament, he called to mind two recent shooting stars of March Madness -- BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Davidson's Stephen Curry.

"I want to have an NCAA tournament like Steph Curry or Jimmer Fredette," he said. "Make a run, make a little name for myself, and get the [NBA] money."

Crazy in the head? Maybe. Or just maybe manipulative enough to wind up an endorsement-laden millionaire. The kid's got a 5-Hour Energy deal written all over him.