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Too many assumptions on Henderson

From the looks of things, the Ole Miss staffer knew something was coming.

Guard Marshall Henderson was visibly upset after his team was eliminated from a Sweet 16 berth by La Salle last Sunday. A YouTube video that later popped up showed Henderson walking toward the exit to the arena, kicking what appeared to be a set of water bottles at the end of the bench.

About this time, the aforementioned Rebels staffer came over to hopefully quell the emotions inside the team’s star player. As he made his way into the tunnel, Henderson lifted both arms in the air, middle fingers at attention, letting the fans know they were No. 1 in his life.

Almost immediately, the staffer swiped at Henderson’s upstretched arms, but the deed was done. Right on cue, Henderson’s detractors took to social media, calling him all sorts of derogatory pleasantries I won’t repeat. In the frenzy immediately following the incident, a report came out that fans called Henderson’s sister a name and also made a wise crack about cocaine, soliciting the response from Henderson.

The lightning rod shooting guard from Oxford is no stranger to grabbing the spotlight because of his emotions. Whether it was shouting at the Auburn student section after hitting two game-clinching free throws or doing the Gator chomp during the SEC Tournament title game, Henderson has made a name for himself because of the emotion he displays.

Henderson’s past struggles with drugs are well-documented, which adds fuel to the fire raging inside his disparagers. He’s the antithesis of Tim Tebow in a way — if Tebow is despised for being “too nice,” Henderson is despised for his bad boy persona. But to quote Reggie Jackson, “Fans don’t boo nobodies.”

And that’s really what this boils down to. Henderson made a routine of being the difference in his team winning and losing this past season. If he was the most polite, soft-spoken player in college basketball, he would still be hated — maybe not as loudly, but he’d nonetheless hear many choice words from opposing teams’ student sections.

One headline I recently read asked the question as to whether or not Henderson was misunderstood. But it’s not like any attempt has been made to understand him to begin with. People just see his on-court personality and immediately assume they “get” Henderson.

Fans look at his antics and call him a thug. Older fans, in particular, see his emotion on display and get flustered. “By God, that’s not how so-and-so-from-40-years-ago would have done it!” they might exclaim.

I don’t know Marshall Henderson and doubt I’ll ever meet him. But I did speak with one person who does: Cathedral High School alumnus Geoffrey Martin, a student manager for the Ole Miss basketball team. He painted Henderson in a friendly light,

“He’ll go out of his way to make friends,” Martin said. “After games, he’ll stay and sign autographs and sit there and visit with fans … People want to talk about his antics on the court, but he’s just playing the game. He’ll tell everyone, he’s out there to have fun.”

Hate him if you want — Henderson would probably prefer you did, as he has said he feeds off the vilification. But let’s not assume we know what kind of person he is just because of how he acts on the court. Armchair psychology never did lead to many accurate diagnoses.