Marshall's Moment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- He Gator Chomped. He Landsharked. He danced in the confetti with the Rebelettes. On Sunday Ole Miss won its first SEC Tournament since 1981, and Marshall Henderson was, as he's been all year, a major reason why.

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The platform – a national one, something that's eluded Rebel hoops for the better part of those 32 years between net-cuttings – was not lost on him. There were so many topics to "Marshall" on:

1. A slam of the All-SEC vote, which placed him on the second team. Henderson was named the Tournament MVP, a juxtaposition of merit he laughed at. "Well, those coaches are all losers right now. I'm a winner."

2. Ole Miss' place in history, and his own influence. Commenting on the drought of basketball success in Oxford, Henderson rattled off one inarguable stat: "I know in over 100 years Ole Miss has made the NCAA Tournament only like, seven times. I'm one for one here."

3. A jab at CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb, who said earlier in the week Ole Miss' non-conference schedule was too weak. "Shout out to Doug Gottlieb, who said it was a travesty if we made the Tournament. Pfffft… Take everything he says with a grain of salt."

If you love Marshall Henderson, this only fuels your passion. If you hate him, as many rival fans and national pundits do, this only really fuels your passion. For better or worse, neither side can argue Henderson's importance throughout this season as a character on and off the court.

During Saturday afternoon's win over Vanderbilt, an Ole Miss fan sitting courtside could be overheard musing to a friend, "That boy just makes the game fun."

Marshall Henderson
US Presswire

There's a lot of weight to that comment. This is an Ole Miss program oft ignored (not forgotten, ignored) by its own fans in the sandwich of football devotion and newfound baseball loyalty.

Henderson is a living, breathing NBA Jam video game avatar spouting the kind of anti-rival rhetoric normally found only on a message board. For a large majority of Rebel fans unfamiliar with the intricacies of the game and the nuances of recruiting and player development, Henderson's goofy enthusiasm bridged the gap all year.

There was, however, a single break in Henderson's showy façade. Between leaving the confetti and cameras celebration on the court and the postgame media obligations, a throng of reporters gathered around the sound bite machine, but the character wasn't ready yet. Henderson bowed his body and put his face to the floor. He had a cell phone up to his ear, but it's debatable if he was really on a phone call. When he finally sat back to begin, his eyes looked as if he'd been upset. Maybe crying even.

That doesn't change anything – if you love Marshall Henderson, you still will, and nothing about a moment of humanity will inspire his detractors to take pause. But at least for a second, the wild card court jester that brought the Rebels back to the NCAA Tournament proved in silence that even the weight of an unbelievable accomplishment as this wasn't lost on him.

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