The Rise, Fall, And Redemption Of Marshall Henderson

Uproxx / Getty

HURST, Tex. – There’s a plaque sitting on the desk of one of the assistant coaches inside the basketball office at L.D. Bell High School. It’s one of those things you could’ve picked up at an ESPN Zone a few years ago, or received as a gift at Christmas from someone who knew you liked sports, but didn’t exactly know what to get you. In bold lettering it reads, “Life is just the stuff that happens while we’re waiting for the game to start.”

Just a few feet away, leaning back in a chair with a huge smile on his face, in a Sacramento Kings sweatshirt and Ole Miss sweatpants, Marshall Henderson is still in the middle of all that life stuff. And he’s never in more danger than he is when he’s waiting for the game to start. That’s been the case since high school, and it still follows him to this rainy day in February.

“If it wasn’t basketball season,” Henderson’s father Willie, the head basketball coach at Bell, says, “oh my God. We always thought he’d wind up dead. Just the ride that he was on. He hung out with a lot of dumbasses and was one himself, and we were always worried. We’re still worried now, but not as much.”

Henderson stops by daily to see his dad and work out in the gym. It’s been a few months since he got back from playing for the Reno Bighorns of the D-League, and he’s trying to keep his mind and body occupied until the phone rings and he is told where to go next. His days aren’t complicated – and that’s not a bad thing – he sees his friends for lunch, goes to the lake to sit on a boat, watches the SEC Network constantly, plays basketball, and still goes out, occasionally, although not nearly as much as he used to.

It’s a big change, and a necessary one, from what Henderson quickly became known for in two highly-publicized and utterly self-destructive seasons at Ole Miss. The volatile and polarizing scorer had his moments of superstardom in Oxford and delivered some of the greatest moments in Rebels history.

The deep three-pointer at the buzzer to send Vanderbilt to overtime. The 6-0 start to SEC play. The shirt popping and taunting at Auburn. The Gator Chomp and win over Florida in the SEC Championship. The SEC Tournament MVP. The 12-seed upset of Wisconsin. The NBA Draft buzz. The general sense that everything was there for the taking for Marshall Henderson.

Owning It

marshall title
Getty Image

When his junior season ended, Marshall reverted back to being Marshall. And all that life stuff popped up again. He was pulled over in May of 2013, and police found trace amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Shortly after, he failed drug tests, and his college career was in jeopardy. The team and coach Andy Kennedy decided to give him another chance — if he went to a treatment center.