Henson ready to compete for catcher spot

Kyle Henson brings a lot to the Ole Miss baseball program - confidence in his decisions, maturity from having played two years of junior college baseball, and a certainty that he can help Ole Miss get where it longs to be – Omaha.

Henson, a transfer catcher from San Jacinto Junior College in Texas, could have played for his homestate Texas Longhorns. He had a strong offer from them.

But when he narrowed it down to Texas and Ole Miss, he felt Oxford was the place he needed to be to continue his college and baseball career. And he's confident in his decision.

"Obviously the baseball tradition here (was a factor)," said the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Conroe, Texas. "Three years in a row going to the Super Regional, so they're just that close to going to the World Series. There are a lot of great players coming in, a good recruiting class. The facilities and the atmosphere around here, you can't really ask for much more."

He had to put his loyalties aside when making the decision, which was not necessarily an easy thing to do.

"It was tough being from there (and deciding to leave)," he said. "I'd always grown up a Longhorn fan. But baseball destinations take you different places. This was obviously the path that was best for me."

Brett Basham returns as a junior catcher for the Rebels. Rebel veteran Alex Kliman did not return to the team for a fifth season. Other catchers on the roster are returnees Zack Rutland and Scott Haltom, and newcomer Tyler Wells.

The early thought is that the catcher spot will likely come down to Basham, with a lot of experience, and Henson, who arrives from one of the country's best JUCO baseball programs.

"Obviously any Division I school you go to, you're going to go up against great competition," said Henson, a 17th round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. "Brett was the catcher last year and was a great catcher. We've talked already about helping each other out this year. I think the competition is going to make each one of us better. Obviously the one that goes out there and does the best is going to win the job."

Henson fought a back injury in 2007 and only hit .286 but finished well with an all-tournament nomination in the JUCO World Series. He was impressive as a freshman with a .396 average.

Henson, who played summer baseball this year in a wooden bat league in Houston, said the first couple of weeks have been eye-opening as far as the jump from junior college to D-I baseball, especially the demands placed on the individual both academically and athletically.

"It's been pretty hectic. It's different from junior college baseball. You have meetings left and right here. You really have to learn time management. You're always busy, going from here to there. The goal is to get better, and that's what we're here for."

Henson said fall ball, which begins Sept. 21, will be important for him as he works to get better and play D-I baseball. But he brings quite a bit to the table already.

"My arm is one of my strengths as a catcher," he said. "I have experience of having been to the World Series both my freshman and sophomore years in junior college, so I know how to play in front of a big atmosphere. My overall defensive game, blocking and throwing, is going to be a key component as to whether I play or not."

San Jacinto has a long and storied history of preparing players for the Division I level of baseball and seeing them make their way to the pros. Henson is well aware of that.

"They always send players to great D-I schools," he said.

He believes with his own route leading to Oxford that he's hopefully on that same path.

"I went to a great (JUCO) program, and I'm coming to a better program now," he said. "I had two great choices (Texas and Ole Miss), but I picked the best one."

There's that Kyle Henson confidence again.

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