The Marshall Henderson rehabilitation project seems to be actually working for the time being.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy told CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish on Tuesday that Henderson will be with the team on Friday when practices begin.
Hey, no news and keeping his fingertips away from the keyboard is progress for Henderson, who has been addicted to attention—this hasn't been as alarming as his substance abuse issues, but has caused problems.
Whether Henderson should play or not—I'm sticking with my stance that he's had enough chances—the fact that he's starting practice on Friday is a good sign that Kennedy will deal with the drama for the jumper.
Is Henderson Worth Gambling On?
Kennedy has answered how he feels about this by allowing Henderson to stay on the team. Hopefully, Kennedy's intentions are to help Henderson beat addiction. That's the real fight that the coach faces.
The other battle is trying to control Henderson's actions on the court.
But let's be real. Henderson is getting this chance for the same reason Texas A&M is dealing with Johnny Manziel: Henderson gives the Rebels their best chance to win and get back to the NCAA tournament.
Henderson's addition last year, from a basketball perspective, turned the Mississippi offense from a mediocre unit to one of the best offenses in the SEC. The Rebels went from 117th in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency (subscription needed) to 29th.
What Henderson provided was an offensive identity. It's fair to question his shot selection, because Henderson took some ridiculous shots and set an NCAA record for three-point attempts in a season. He also only shot 35 percent from deep.
But it worked, mainly because the Rebels knew who they were.
Kennedy built an offense around Henderson's ability to get up shots. The Rebels played fast. They averaged nearly five possessions more per game, and the biggest thing playing fast accomplished was Ole Miss went from a turnover-prone team to ranking ninth in turnover percentage.
The Rebels also went from an NIT team that lost in the first round to a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament. You'll deal with a lot when one player can make that much difference, and the real scare for Ole Miss losing Henderson would be figuring out how to play without him.
What Will Ole Miss Look Like With Henderson as a Senior?
It's reasonable to believe that Ole Miss would have at least been improved a year ago if Henderson had never shown up on campus. The Rebels' identity had a lot to do with Henderson's shot-taking, but they also had the persona of a team with a mean streak. Few teams could match the physicality and strength of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, two players whose value was near Henderson's.
Holloway and Buckner are gone, and their roles as the No. 2 and 3 scorers for the Rebels will likely move onto guards Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White.
Summers and White are both talented players. They are physical guards who thrive at getting in the lane. But like Holloway and Buckner, they're better with Henderson around. Henderson is the only above-average outside shooter on the team, and his presence spaces the floor and makes it easier for Summers and White to attack.
The biggest question mark for Ole Miss—other than whether Henderson can stay out of trouble—is who will replace Holloway and Buckner—and can Ole Miss get any production out of the 4 and 5 spots?
Kennedy did sign two post players and one in particular, Sebastian Saiz, showed some promise this summer. Saiz played in the U-19 World Championships for Spain and averaged 9.6 points and 9.7 rebounds, which got the attention of ESPN's Fran Fraschilla.
Saiz could help fill some rebounding void left by Holloway and Buckner and give the Rebels a fourth scoring threat.
But let's assume, with Henderson, the Rebels can be as good as they were last year. Will that be enough to get back to the tournament in an improved SEC? Last year was a down year in the league and gave Ole Miss the chance to rise up.
Now Kentucky is back to being Kentucky. Florida should once again be a Top 10 team. Tennessee has improved and will be a borderline preseason Top 25 team. Arkansas, Missouri and LSU all signed freshman classes ranked in the top 20 by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com.
You could look at the improvements elsewhere around the league as a positive for Ole Miss. The strength of the league could help the Rebels if they manage to pull off another winning record, and the only way that happens is if Henderson is around.
As for Henderson's game, he made it pretty clear what he is in his first year at Ole Miss. He's a chucker who never stops shooting, although Kennedy told Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News earlier this summer that he expects to see some maturity in Henderson's game as a senior:
I expect him to evolve into more than a shoot-first, ask-questions-later guy. I will expect his game to evolve. Does that mean he's not going to shoot a bunch of balls? No, because that's what he does.
Part of Henderson's evolution away from the court since the suspension has been staying quiet. Kennedy has to know that Henderson is going to move his mouth and pop his jersey when the games start. That's what he does.
But if he can do so without embarrassing Ole Miss and if he can stay out of trouble off the court, then the gamble will pay off.
Of course, what we know of Henderson is that he's a player who has consistently done two things in his career: get up shots and find trouble.
Until he proves for a sustainable period he's able to avoid the latter, most will assume it's a matter of time before this blows up in Kennedy's face.
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