Marshall Henderson is Marshall Mathers III. To their respective billion-dollar entertainment industries, both are as valuable as gold. Most music fans refer to Mathers by his hip-hop persona, Eminem. Most Ole Miss fans call Henderson “Crazy Boy.” To the opposition, he’s public enemy No. 1.
Eminem carved out a legendary career as a white rapper who ascended to the top of the hip-hop charts by captivating a generation with his skill, candor, wild-boy behavior and a barrage of hits.
Henderson is like Eminem with a wicked J.
He’s already done a quick bid. He’s not drug-shy. His teammates and fans love him. He’s a corporate cash cow and opponents loathe him. The court is his stage. He doesn’t need a mic to be heard. He stands out like brand new cotton nets on a city-hardtop court, but stands firm upon it as an immovable object, tongue wagging, eyes bulging, chest puffed and arms flailing.
Greg Newell, son of legendary coaching icon Pete Newell, is a huge Henderson fan and told The Shadow League, “Marshall has that Larry Bird swag, with some Pistol Pete in his passing ability and style, and the passion playing like this might be his last game,” Newell said. “Let’s be real here…He is a white boy playing a black man’s game…so he sticks out because he plays the game like a brother and I love it! Just as I loved Jason Williams (White Chocolate)…but this kid has way more swag than JWill.”
Henderson’s a must-see for basketball fans of any ethnicity.
It took him less than a year at Mississippi to prove he’s all about buckets, big wins and bravado, leading the SEC in scoring (20.1 ppg) and setting a school-record with 131 treys. His highly anticipated March Madness debut is on Friday as he leads his 12th-seeded Mississippi against 5th seed Wisconsin in the West Region. Expect him to incite the crowd, flex some skills and be real cocky with it. Things a rapper would do.
Eminem decks fans and talks greasy. When Henderson’s not chucking ice at home-team, he’s taunting Florida fans or exchanging expletive-laden smack with Auburn fans and flapping his jersey in exultation.
Henderson wilds out so much that sometimes his antics overshadow his artistry, which leads to skepticism.
“I can’t go there on him being the next White Chocolate,” said Florida International assistant coach Kimani Young. “He is a good college player, elite shooter who’s hard to defend when he gets it going. He’s an emotional guy who will do anything to win. But I don’t think he’s an NBA player, black or white.”
Hype or not, Henderson gets it in like a 24-hour chop shop. The former NJCAA National Player of the Year jetted onto the scene and led Mississippi to its first SEC title since 1981 and first NCAA Tournament berth since ’02. He is a twitter-trending locomotive, whose celebrity is rising with every fist pump and clutch bucket.
His tweets are loud, uncensored and provocative like Eminem’s classic joints. Henderson represents the new-age young gunner. A product of a brash, talented, middle-finger-flippers, with a New God flow.
There are few players in college that have crazy skill, the coach’s green light to shoot at impulse, that can be antagonistic and demonstrative—almost punkish—and still get embraced as a face of March Madness by the NCAA.
“My dad always told me, you gotta be different,” Henderson said in an ESPN NCAA Tournament feature. “You gotta play with more”
So he does, for better or worse.
Henderson’s circuitous college basketball journey has taken him from Utah, to Texas Tech to a drug program, to jail to JuCo to Ole Miss, to brazen, basketball darling. Even with the microscope on his checkered past and NBA execs taking his temperature, Henderson prefers to keep it amped up.
“I just do things how I do them. I’m sorry,” Henderson said. “Whether you like it or not, I’m not going to change.”
Henderson is off the hook with it. When the junior guard was asked what he was trying to get out of his March Madness debut, he responded, “make a name for myself so I can get this money.”
Sounds like a rapper to me.