U of L hoops feature: Tim Henderson

The second in a series of stories published by Cardinal Authority on individual members of the University of Louisville basketball team. The first feature looks at senior Tim Henderson.

If you were to combine every minute of basketball that University of Louisville guard Tim Henderson has played in his life, the number would reach well into the hundreds.

But most of those minutes would seem like nothing compared to a 42-second stint he offered the Cardinals in 10 minutes of play last season in the Final Four game against Wichita State.

The circumstances by which Henderson was forced into action were not ideal. When Kevin Ware, who had been emerging as a breakout performer in the Big East and national tournaments, suffered a gruesome leg break in the Cards' Elite Eight matchup with Duke, the injury left the team thin at the guard position.

Heading into the Final Four, the Cardinals knew that they would have to use the 6-foot-2, 195-pound walk-on in order to spell Russ Smith and Peyton Siva.

"I just wanted to play hard and I didn't really know what was going to happen," Henderson said of knowing he would see significant time in the game.

To the surprise of many, Louisville struggled with Wichita State, and faced at 12-point deficit with just over 13 minutes to play.

"I remember sitting there on the bench one time and talking to (forward/center) Stephan (Van Treese)," Henderson remembers. "We're down 12, and I'm like ‘Listen, someone's going to have to step up, because we may never come back to this moment again.'"

Little did he, or anyone else, know, that the previously little-used local product from Christian Academy would provide the boost the Cardinals desperately needed.

Henderson sparked a 21-8 Louisville run by knocking down back-to-back three-pointers in a 42-second span. The clutch baskets would help the Cardinals to a 72-68 win and propel the No.1 overall seed into the championship game.

"I was just open that one time and I hit the shot, and I was like ‘OK, now we're going, but we're still down nine," Henderson said.

"Then I hit the second one and I just could not believe it. I just started yelling and screaming. It felt like the whole momentum changed (at that moment)."

Henderson says that having experienced that moment, and knowing that he plays for a coach that trusts him, has done a lot to help his confidence heading into his senior campaign.

"(Hitting those threes) has done a lot (for my confidence). I feel much more comfortable out there playing."

"Coach (Rick Pitino) really doesn't care about offense as much as he does defense. If you're open he wants you to shoot and he's not going to get mad at you."

Now in his fourth season with the program, Henderson is hopeful that he will continue to help the team and possibly even see a bigger role.

"I can see (my role) being almost the same as last year, if not getting more time," Henderson says humbly.

"Coach sees who fits well in one area and who fits well in another area, so if he feels I fit well for a (certain) style of play that we're going against, he'll put me in."

In addition to the possibility of an added role on the court, Henderson could play the role of mentor to the team's two new walk-on freshmen: Dillon Avare and David Levitch.

"I told (Dillon and David) how it's going to be the first year. I said it's going to be hard, you've just got to stick through it and grind through it if it's something you really want to do. You never know, you might get the opportunity I got."

Henderson also warned Avare and Levitch that there would be "low points" throughout their careers as walk-ons- something that Henderson has experienced plenty of times in his four seasons.

"Coming from high school, you go from being the star and then when you get here you don't even get on the court at all. You just want to get out there and you miss the competitiveness of being out there and playing."

"So I told them that's going to be the toughest part; just getting used to that. But (I told them) if you keep working and develop your game, who knows what could happen."

Although his humbleness may not allow him to believe it, Henderson's six points in 42 seconds changed the history of Louisville basketball forever, by helping bring the school its third national title.

When discussing the toughness of his backcourt, coach Rick Pitino is quick to drop the names of Chris Jones, Russ Smith and Terry Rozier. But he won't leave Henderson off that list.

"Tim's a tough Louisville kid," Pitino said. "He doesn't back down from anyone."

As evidenced by his big shots last season, he's not one to back down from any moment either.

And as Pitino put it during an interview in the summer, "We don't win a national championship without Tim Henderson."


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