No More 'Mania'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Marshall Henderson sank down in his locker, his leg propped up as he sat in disbelief.

Follow SpiritBen on Twitter

Ole Miss had lost to La Salle, 76-74, and ended the Rebels' season in the third round of the NCAA tournament. A hard-fought game, to be sure, and Henderson had scored a team-leading 21 points.

But as reporters began to gather around him, the polarizing Henderson, who has become a national story line both on the court and off of it, began to cry. The finality of it all, the blame he placed on himself, took hold.

This wasn't how it was supposed to end - a Tyrone Garland lay-up with two seconds left dashing the hopes of a resilient bunch of Rebels. Ole Miss, a No. 12 seed, had come so far, rebounding from tough losses in February to win an SEC tournament championship and a first-round game with No. 5 seed Wisconsin on Friday.

So he cried. And cried. And cried some more. Because Henderson, the player many loved to hate, felt he should have done more.

"It just hurts," he said, looking to the floor and his voice crackling as he answered questions. "I wanted it so bad for everyone. It just hurts. I had to make better plays. It hurts for the seniors. I wanted it so bad for them."

There was so much written about him over the last three weeks. He was one of the more thrilling players in college basketball, not just for his abilities on the court, but in the way he interacted with fans during games, celebrated on the court and was a quote machine afterwards.

Marshall Henderson brought Ole Miss basketball back to the national stage, the Rebels finishing the year with 27 wins to nine losses, and the Ole Miss brand on display for all to see as national outlet after national outlet caught on to the flamboyant gunner with, as LeBron James tweeted recently, the greenest light in history.

The Rebels were one of the more talked about teams in the NCAA tournament. Henderson was the primary reason why.

Marshall Henderson
USA TODAY images

But their stay was cut short.

"It's fine and dandy when the ball's in your hands and you win the game," he said. "The feeling of losing is so much worse. I'm caught up in the moment right now. When I sit back and think about (the season), I'll be pretty happy. It was a pretty successful year.

"But we should have won that game. We had it."

Ole Miss led by five with 4:18 left. However, La Salle wouldn't go away, tying the score at 69-69, then again at 74-74. Less than 40 seconds remained when Henderson drove the lane. He threw up a jumper, but he missed. He begged for a foul. There was undeniable contact. The nearby referee even agreed he was fouled.

"He told me he's not going to call a foul with one second left on the shot clock," Henderson said, his competitiveness returning over the emotion of the loss. "I told him that was B.S. You got to call the foul, especially when you told me it was a foul. He took off my whole left arm."

‘Marshall Mania' is over, his No. 22 jersey worn for the last time this season. In his debut season at Ole Miss, he led the SEC in scoring, set the NCAA single-season record for 3-point attempts (394) and also set the SEC mark for 3s made in a season with 141. He scored at least 20 points for the 18th time against La Salle.

The question now is will he be back for more? For more madness? For more jersey-popping and Landsharking and Gator Chomping?

"As far as I know, yeah," he said.

Henderson talked of becoming more of a leader in his senior season, of how it's time for him "to take the next step." Should he return, he would be the only senior on a team returning three starters.

"Talking about things and doing things are two different set of priorities," head coach Andy Kennedy, who led Ole Miss to a school-record-tying 27 wins and six straight prior to the loss to La Salle.

"Marshall's got a good heart. If I had a nickel for every time I said that, I could probably retire. He does. He's a passionate kid. He cares. I want guys who care. Do emotions sometimes get the best of him? No question. Does emotion sometimes get the best of me? No question. But he's a kid that is a cornerstone of this league with his abilities as a player. I know he's going to get in and work hard this summer in a number of areas. My hope is leadership is one of them."

Henderson brought up a "senior work ethic" and how he's "almost there," speaking, of course, of the NBA. Even so, he left the door open. He wouldn't be Marshall Henderson without stirring up some debate, even in his final interview of the 2012-13 season.

"I haven't explored any options," he said. "It's a crazy world out there. I'm tired of going to school."

OM Spirit Top Stories