Marshall Henderson's second chance

ESPN The Magazine: Marshall Henderson

Andy Katz sits down with Ole Miss Guard Marshall Henderson for an exclusive look at the life and off the court challenges of Henderson as he currently serves suspension going into the 2013 college basketball season.

LONG BEFORE HE suited up for Ole Miss, Marshall Henderson was a rebel. He admits he never liked following rules, whether set by his father or the police. Arrested in high school for using counterfeit money to buy marijuana, Henderson avoided jail but violated his probation while in college by testing positive for pot, cocaine and alcohol. A standout at L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas, where he played for his dad, Willie, Henderson cycled through three colleges -- a freshman year at Utah, a transfer to Texas Tech, where he never played a game, and then a transfer 30 miles west to South Plains junior college -- before landing in Mississippi at the start of last season. Now entering his senior year, he has racked up impressive stats (20.1 ppg last season), a reputation for showboating and a lengthy rap sheet. Last season he led the Rebels to an upset over 5-seed Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament, but he was suspended indefinitely in July after receiving a citation for driving without insurance. (Police found marijuana and cocaine in his car but said it wasn't enough to prosecute.) Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy isn't sure when he'll reinstate his star guard, but Henderson says he's ready -- and has sworn off drugs and alcohol for the season.

At what point did you get rebellious?
Tenth grade was a turning point. When you get a little older, people start dabbling in things, and I'm ride or die with my best friends, whatever they're doing. But during the season, when we had dad-son/coach-player screwups, that was always the toughest.

How hard was it to play for your dad?
The hardest thing I've done in my entire life. We were just head-to-head on everything all the time; there was no trying to meet in the middle. I really didn't want to have to listen to anything because, yo, man, I'm the best! I'm averaging like 25 points a game and my dad would be trying to find things I didn't do right, and I'd be like, "Man, can I get some kind of credit?" I would go at him pretty hard in practice, and he'd ground me later on and take the phone away from me at home, and then I would get all riled up about it and there would be some pretty intense yelling matches. My mom tried to step in and try to be the middle person, but after a while there was just no point.

How did this affect your family?
I would just leave the house and come back whenever. My dad was waiting up for me scared because I wasn't answering the phone, and I would just go and do something crazy and come back home, and then we'd start yelling at like 2 in the morning and wake everybody up. I wasn't doing anything to help myself out, and they were like, "You've got to go." I just came home one night and they had everything packed up. I went to my mom's parents' house, and I respected the hell out of them and wouldn't have done anything to jeopardize my relationship with them, so that was actually a good move.

When did the relationship with your dad begin to repair?
Really, when I went to college and he wasn't my coach anymore. At one point, I was at home and I felt the need to tell him everything that I'd ever done and let him know it wasn't his fault. I could only use him as an excuse for so long. Me and my dad are like best friends now.

When the feds came to you about using counterfeit money to buy marijuana, what was your reaction?
I threw up -- that was the first thing I did. I was so scared because I thought I'd gotten away. I was just some dumb 18-year-old kid trying to get some money. I didn't realize that counterfeiting is a third-degree felony and you could do fed time for that.

Why did you feel the need to experiment with marijuana and cocaine?
When I was at South Plains, something happened with me and my girlfriend, and this whole crazy ordeal went down and just drove me insane, pretty much. And I went two days straight of just smoking and doing coke and drinking. I went into my probation meeting and told them I'm all kinds of messed up. I wasn't really mad when I went to court and they were like, "180 days in jail," because I deserved it.

What were those days like in jail in the spring of 2012?
I'd just be lying there a lot, just thinking, Am I ever going to get out of this place? I was just sitting there thinking the whole time: I'm never going to do wrong again. It's easy to think that when you're stuck in a jail cell. And then my dad comes and gets me and he's like, "Would you promise me that you're not going to do anything wrong again?" and I was like, "Oh, that's kind of tough, but I'll give you my word that I'm going to try my hardest."

What was the reaction when you first got to Ole Miss?
It was so funny because some of my teammates were like, "This is the junior college player of the year? This dude is terrible." Because I've been in jail for a month! I mean, we hooped some, but I was hooping in flip-flops and a jumpsuit. I was so out of shape, but I just kept working and working. Every single time that I've gotten in trouble, it's been the best thing that's ever happened to me at that time.

How surprised were you that Ole Miss was still willing to take you knowing everything that had occurred?
I explained that the counterfeit money was because I was kicked out of my house and I didn't know what to do; it's really a stupid excuse for what I did, but that was why I did it. They were like, "You've got a clean slate when you come here." And they said, "We're not going to tell anyone you went to jail -- just say you took the semester off and the summer session off." And I was like, "Awesome." I mean, eventually everyone found out everything.

What led to your getting suspended?
Like I've said, when basketball is not there, it's always been a bad time for me. I still wonder how things just got out of control. I was thinking I was above everything, which is crazy because I've never thought that way before.I'm like, "Well, I'm not a professional, so I don't get paid, so why is partying when the season is over frowned upon? Why do I have to be held to a higher standard? These people I'm with -- future doctors, lawyers, businessmen -- they don't have to take a drug test. Why do I? I just kind of created this unrealistic stuff in my head.

This is the first time I ever just realized, "Holy crap, they gave me another chance." I thank them every day. I can't believe that they did.

Was that the only time you strayed in the year at Ole Miss?
After the season, I was like, "It's go time. It's party time." I like going out a lot, and I mean there's nothing to do here, but I like socializing with people. I was going out and getting real drunk and like, "Yeah, we're the champs!" I let myself fall into that trap that a lot of people fall into, that limelight and everyone loving on you. I had to tell coach Kennedy and Ross [Bjork, the Ole Miss athletic director] I screwed up. There's no getting around what I did, and I've just got to take it, and whatever y'all want to do with me y'all can do with me.

What are the conditions of your suspension?
Oh, you know, just whatever they ask.[Laughs] It could be midnight and they come knocking on the door saying, "Yo, let's go grab a bite to eat." I'm doing everything they ask me to do, which is fine because, like I said, when school starts, I'm focused. I was like, "You should actually give me this treatment when the season is over, when I'm trying to go make some money."

How does the testing differ for you than for other players?
I have to check in every day for random. I don't know when, just every single day. You've got to check in, and it either says you've been selected or you haven't been.

What do you need to do for Ole Miss to have a similar type of season to last year?
When we get to scrimmaging, some guys are getting tired and making those tired mistakes, and I'm like, "Deep breath, everybody. Let's gather ourselves and move on to the next play and don't do anything crazy." Being the only senior, I've got to be the calming influence, which is just crazy. [Laughs]

How will you handle the road this year after what happened with the suspension?
That's my favorite thing, just going and shutting up 20,000 people.

Five or 10 years from now, where do you want to be?
I want to help people, and so one way I'll be able to help people is with drug and alcohol use because I've been through it and still have a chance to succeed. It's weird how all this trouble, this freaking game of basketball, can actually lead me to helping people in a way that I never would have thought I could have done.

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