July 11, 2013
Kudos to the Wall Street Journal.
The publication found _ or was tipped off, but really, who cares? _ a May 4 Oxford Police Department report which detailed Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson being caught with marijuana and cocaine on the heels of being stopped for suspicion of speeding. It's worth noting _ on a number of fronts, really _ that the Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger reported late Thursday that Henderson was not arrested as a result of the stop.
"Marshall Henderson was very cooperative and that's why just the citation was issued," Oxford police chief Joey East told the C-L. Henderson was cited for lack of proof of liability insurance.
The report comes a day after Ole Miss issued a statement suspending the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer for an indefinite period of time.
"Since the season ended, we have talked a lot about Marshall taking a greater leadership role with our team," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said in the UM-released statement. "With that comes greater responsibility, and he must do a better job of living up to the high standards we expect from him and he desires from himself."
Later Wednesday, Henderson _ with the help of his friend and Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche _ released a statement of sorts via Instagram, essentially downplaying his suspension. It was a horrible idea, one that led to a tremendous amount of deserved criticism from regional and national media. Henderson also took to Twitter Wednesday, engaging Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews in a back-and-forth. In short, the whole day was a public relations disaster for the Texas native and the Ole Miss program.
Henderson implied in a Twitter post Thursday that he's "not going anywhere." Kennedy told USA Today Henderson is enrolled in second summer session and still could return to the floor this season for Ole Miss.
Personally, I believe Henderson will return. First, however, he has to rehabilitate himself on two fronts. Henderson must first overcome his drug addiction. That's obvious. Then he must rehabilitate his image.
As I've said many times, I like Henderson. I find him funny, engaging, likable, intelligent, witty and challenging. He rewards smart questions with thoughtful answers and punishes stupid questions with short, smarmy responses. I love that. He seems to keep score on which reporters have been fair and which ones have taken cheap shots. I love that even more. As a journalist, I like that game.
Still, Henderson clearly has issues. Life after basketball, hopefully, will be a long one for Henderson, and he needs to address the demons in his life. This isn't, after all, his first struggle with drugs. Henderson also needs to show some contrition. He needs to own his mistakes and his actions and not let the university do it for him. After he undergoes rehabilitation for his drug issues, Henderson needs to sit down with the media entity or entities of his choice and answer every question. He needs to be forthright. He needs to be apologetic. Then Henderson needs to chill.
He can't taunt opposing fans anymore. He can't respond to taunts after a tough loss. He can't provoke. Henderson must find a way to play with the infectious energy that makes him such an explosive player without instigating others in the process. It's a fine line, sure, but he simply has to learn how to toe it.
The bet here is Henderson plays again, likely long before Southeastern Conference action begins in January. He won't be able to avoid the microscope, and his detractors will be waiting to pounce on the first mistake he makes. I suspect Ole Miss knows this _ how could it not? _ and I would further guess Henderson's leash to remain with the program couldn't be shorter.
That's the funny thing. Ole Miss needs Henderson. Without him, the Rebels don't erase that NCAA tournament drought. Without him, the program likely doesn't even register on college basketball's radar.
Now, Henderson needs Ole Miss just as much. He needs the school to help him get the help he needs and then to produce a road to image recovery. It's long and riddled with land mines. If Henderson can navigate it, he has the game and the personality to be college hoops' feel-good story in March.
Otherwise, Henderson's stay in Oxford will be remembered more for the flame-out than for the excitement he injected into a moribund program.
And that would be a shame.