Mike Henderson: The Mayor of the PTL
Mike Henderson smiles at everyone. He shakes people's hands. It might just be a matter of time before he kisses his first baby.
The Iowa freshman-to-be really is enjoying his first experiences in Iowa City. And the Waterloo East High product figures it is easy to show it.
"It doesn't take much to smile and be nice," the 6-foot-2 combo guard said. "I love it here. I don't know why I didn't pick (Iowa) in the first place.
"We have great coaches, great facilities, and I get to be around great players and great people everyday."
Henderson verbally committed to Iowa State before signing with the Hawkeyes last fall.
The Cyclones play host to Iowa this season.
"That's definitely crossed my mind," Henderson said as a smile came to his face. "That game could be a learning experience for me."
Henderson is expected to contribute as a freshman. Iowa welcomes his speed, court vision and ability to penetrate. He is working on gaining a consistent outside shot.
In helping to lead Waterloo East to a large-school state basketball championship last winter, Henderson averaged 17 PPG. The Des Moines Register also named him to its first-team, all-Iowa squad for a second consecutive year.
"I'm definitely going to try to compete for a starting spot," he said. "You never want to settle for less. But whatever my role ends up being, I'll be glad to fill it.
"Whatever helps out the team, I'm there to do that."
Henderson has leaned on an old friend for guidance. He and Iowa sophomore-to-be Jeff Horner played AAU basketball together.
The two Iowa guards have been watching film. Horner has shown Henderson extra drills to improve his game.
"Mike is going to handle it real well," Horner said of the transition from prep to college player.
"Once he learns what it's all about, it's going to be fun to watch. He's going to go through his slumps this year. He's going to get depressed and all that other stuff. Everybody goes through it. You just have to overcome it."
A busy schedule has prevented Henderson from experiencing much outside of basketball and work.
Henderson trains at 1 p.m. every day with his Iowa teammates. He then works at Fareway grocery store from 4-10 p.m., except on Mondays and Thursdays, when he is at the PTL.
"I've been thinking about playing in college for about three years," Henderson said. "It's exciting that it's really here now. But you don't have much free time."
PTL games have provided the young guard with an opportunity to test himself. The league is comprised mostly of college players.
"It's really competitive," Henderson said. "I'm learning a lot so far about cutting, and when to go and when to lay back. For the most part, this is really a good learning experience for me.
"This will prepare me for the physical play and speed of the (college) game."
Iowa strength and conditioning coach Bill Maxwell has helped Henderson gain three pounds since he arrived on campus. The Hawkeye guard said that he already feels stronger and faster than when he arrived.
Henderson might need that strength to carry huge expectations that come with being a home-state star.
"I try not to let the pressure get to me," Henderson said. "A lot of people have seen what I can do, but there are a lot of great players on this team. I'm just trying to contribute any way I can."